Elly in Bloom: A Love Letter to St. Louis

October 2012

Editor’s Note

It is a proud moment for GirlsGetaway to see one of our writers succeed in publishing her first book! Congratulations to Colleen Oakes on the official publication of her debut novel Elly in Bloom!!

The Great Elly in Bloom Book Giveaway Contest

To celebrate the launch, and now availability, of Elly in Bloom, I’m running a little book giveaway contest.

How to Enter

Leave one comment in the comment section below about a city you fell in love with, no need to be creative or fancy unless you really want to be, who am I to curtail the creative spirit of our readers? We’ll pick a random winner using random.org, and one lucky person will get a signed copy of Elly in Bloom!

Comment right away, I’m shutting this thing down by 10pm (EST) on Friday, October 12th!

In the article below Colleen gives us a quick introduction to the novel’s main character Elly and to the many charms of St. Louis, she tells us how the city wormed its way into her heart and eventually into her new book.

Elly in Bloom by Colleen OakesColleen Oakes: A Love Letter to St. Louis

I love traveling. There is nothing quite like arriving in a new place, a place that you haven’t seen and experiencing it in all it’s glory. Smelling the aromas, tasting the local cuisine, seeing things that leave you breathless and hungry for more. St. Louis, at first, was none of these things for me. I found it a strange and terrifying city, so foreign to my Colorado upbringing and East Coast ties. I decried that it was a simmering heat wave of cement and left it at that. I was so sure of this, after two whole days.

Then I stayed there. And after a few months, the city began to blossom in front of me, showing me it’s secret places and rich cultural diversity.I marveled at the free museums, zoos and science centers, and at a concept that helped level a playing field for both the wealthy and poor. Whether your parents are bankers or fast-food employees, if you want to go to the zoo every single day, you CAN. St. Louis is a pioneer in this belief, and I think all cities should follow this model.

I began to see the beauty of the different neighborhoods and cultures that made up St. Louis. There was University City, flush with college students, head shops, hip eateries and urban flavor and design. There was Soulard, a once dangerous neighborhood that was on the rise, filled with gorgeous, old buildings, a haven for artists, gardeners and young couples. There was the wealth of Ladue, with it’s old mansions and sweeping lawns. Clayton, with it’s mix of colleges, seminaries and parks. Downtown St. Louis, with the arch and the Budweiser factory, continued to be a mix of an old decaying city and a new rebirth of downtown. Dogtown was centered on Irish pubs, The Hill on Italian eateries. The St. Louis Botanic Gardens were the most beautiful Botanic Gardens I’d ever seen. They even put San Francisco’s garden to shame.

In short, I had fallen in love with St. Louis, just as soon as I’d opened my eyes to a simple fact: in every city in the world, there is beauty to be found. In St. Louis, it was everywhere.

So years later, when I started writing my first book, Elly in Bloom, I knew there could be no other setting. It was St. Louis, a land of heat and flowers, where Elly would have her trials. When traveling, you never know where your inspiration will bury and reveal itself later. This is part of the wonder of it. Traveling can lead to a number of things – an award winning photo, a film, a book. You store those things you see up in your heart and reveal them, like a flower, one petal or memory at a time.

Elly in Bloom is available now through Amazon, Kindle and Barnes and Noble.

Colleen Oakes - author of Elly in BloomSummary of Elly in Bloom:

Surrounded by lush flowers and neurotic brides, chubby 32-year old Elly Jordan has carved out a sweet little life for herself as the owner of Posies, a boutique wedding florist in St. Louis. It’s not bad for a woman who drove away from her entire life just two years ago when she found her husband entwined with a red-headed artist.

Sure, Elly has an embarrassingly beautiful best friend, a terribly behaved sheepdog and a sarcastic assistant who she simply calls “Snarky Teenager”, but overall her days are pleasantly uneventful. As a bonus, her new next door neighbor just happens to be an unnervingly handsome musician who has an eye for curvy Elly. Just when she feels that she is finally moving on from her past, she discovers that an extravagant wedding contract, one that could change her financial future, is more than she bargained for.

With the help of her friends, staff and the occasional well-made sandwich, Elly bravely agrees to take on the event that threatens to merge her painful history with her bright new life, and finds herself blooming in a direction she never imagined.

Elly’s voice, both charming and hilarious, will appeal to those readers who have been looking for a new voice in chick-lit, and will give women of all sizes the realistic heroine they’ve been waiting for.

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