Professor Burne Cameron has spent the last several weeks on a remote island off the coast of California, all in the name of studying his beloved sea grasses. Some graduate assistants are with him, but largely Burne enjoys being out in the wild and able to dedicate all his faculties to his research. That said, he is close with his brother and niece, who live back in Arizona. That’s why Burne thought it was a little strange that his birthday went unmarked. As it turns out, the boat that delivered the mail accidentally sent his birthday card to someone else, who noticed and rectified that error. Part of making amends to Burne included sending him the wayward card, a letter of apology, and the most gorgeously simple art Burne has seen. Of course, Burne is delighted to have received the glittery, unicorn decorated card from his niece. More than that, however, he feels an instant connection to the man who took the time to set things to rights and include two glorious illustrations of Burne and his beloved seaside.
Devon Lillian loves his custom built, oceanside home. As well he should, he designed it. Devon has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the world of architecture, but all his success does not erase the fact that he was born with a congenital heart condition that will forever require monitoring. Mostly, though, Devon is well. As long as he stays within his limits, he can enjoy all the things life has to offer — like getting to know university professors with a penchant for sea grasses and who are endearingly close to their families. Devon decides to reach out in writing to the professor after mistakenly receiving the birthday card. What begins as a one-off letter of apology grows into a genuine correspondence. From the beginning, Devon feels a special connection to this academic man. He hopes that his interest is returned and, as their letters delve into more and varied topics, their connection grows beyond the words on the page. Everything seems perfect on paper. But when they meet in person for the first time, they’ll find out if that shimmering connection is all sizzle and no steak or if there is something to build forever on.
A Flowering of Ink is a contemporary get-together from author K.L. Noone. The story swaps between Burne and Devon as narrators, building a strong sense of who these two men are, as well as showing how they develop feelings for each other. While not strictly an epistolary story, these two do kick off their relationship by exchanging letters and we, the readers, get to experience all that content. Sometimes, those letters explore what the author feels as he writes; sometimes, those letters explore what the recipient feels as he reads. Letters are also the vehicle through which our MCs overcome the defining hardship of this story.
As I read this story, two things really stood out to me. First, this a rather fun exploration of instalove without our love interests actually meeting in person until late in the game. From the first letter Burne receives, his curiosity about Devon is piqued. That first letter opened a floodgate of possibilities that only grew more tantalizing the longer they exchanged words. I enjoyed how the high quality of Devon’s stationery and carefully comported letters reflect so much of the reality that was Devon. Wealthy and famous, good-looking in an ethereal way, and always analyzing colors and moods and spaces and flow. In contrast, Burne makes do with what he has on hand while out in the field, rough and ready for a day of analyzing sea grasses. He forever has grass in his wind-swept hair and serviceable clothes, ready to go on a trip across the beach at a moment’s notice. More concretely, Devon comes from wealth and lives in luxury, two facts that allow him to better manage his health condition. Burne is dedicated to the things he loves—family and research—and may not have as much in material means, but compensates by being more emotionally intelligent.
The other element that stood out to me was the flavor of the writing. The descriptions of scenery and emotions all ring so true of Noone’s style. Personally, however, I felt that this exacting descriptiveness wasn’t as impactful for this story. First, it left no room for narrative distinction between what’s being told from Devon’s perspective versus what’s being told from Burne’s. Second, the frequently used device where a couple of single-word adjectives serve as standalone sentences felt a little too abstract for the setting. So many thoughts, feelings, observations from both Devon and Burne’s perspectives were framed with this grandiose styling that it felt a little over done.
Overall, I thought this was a sweet romance starring a great cast. Devon and Burne share an immediate spark of interest that only grows the longer they exchange letters, phone calls, and texts. They bare their hearts early on, but trust each other implicitly because it’s clear they both seem to have the same values and worldview. Basically, they connect from the first letter. Meeting in person seems like merely an extension of their electric connection, but opens the door for a reality check…which serves as the major climax in this book and, to resolve their differences, they return to the medium that brought them together in the first place. If you enjoy saccharine sweet romances or deeply descriptive stories to frame a central romance, then I think you’ll enjoy this book.