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June 2, 2022

Leesa Cross-Smith's Playlist for Her Novel "Half-Blown Rose"

Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Leesa Cross-Smith novel Half-Blown Rose is a smart, funny, and intimate homage to Paris.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Cross-Smith continues to weave spellbinding tales of love and lust in the wake of adversity. . . [Vincent] is an utterly appealing heroine. Another winning novel."


In her own words, here is Leesa Cross-Smith Book Notes music playlist for her novel Half-Blown Rose:



La vie en Rose by Louis Armstrong

My character, Vincent, runs away to Paris for la vie en rose. Life in pink. After her husband, Cillian, betrays her by writing a book that spills secrets he hadn’t shared with her over the course of their relationship, she escapes to her parents’ apartment in Paris and this song is on one of the dinner party playlists I included in the book. (There are a lot of playlists in the book!) I also just adore Louis Armstrong and mention him more than once in the book too.

Vossi Bop by Stormzy

This is another song off a dinner party playlist. It’s a true bop and simply put, I love Stormzy. Vincent loves Stormzy too and has quite a crush. Same.

C’est Si Bon by Eartha Kitt

Oh, this song just feels romantic! C’est si bon means it’s so good. In Half-Blown Rose, Vincent’s new young lover, Loup, likes to say c’est bon bon bon. This song is a nod to that and also I just love Eartha and her big, beautiful kittykat voice. I adore French music so much. The first two lines of this song are translated “It's so good, just wandering around” and that’s what Vincent does a lot in Paris. It’s what she and Loup do a lot together too. A favorite!

What Kind Of Man by Florence + The Machine

In this song, she sings “and with one kiss you inspired a fire of devotion that lasts for twenty years…what kind of man loves like this?” It reminds me so much of Vincent and Cillian. That fire that holds them together and has for over twenty-five years…but also he’s ruined that by keeping his secrets. What kind of man does something like that? What kind of man loves like this?

Rue Saint-Vincent by Yves Montand

Loup likes to call Vincent Saint Vincent. They send songs back and forth to each other and Loup sends her this song after they take a walk to rue Saint-Vincent so he can point to her name. He loves her name. I love how quiet this song is. Feels a bit like a lullaby.

Paris, Paris, Paris by Joséphine Baker

Ah, Paris mon amour. A corner of heaven. This book really is a love letter to Paris and so is this song.

Hardest To Love by The Weeknd

In my mind, this is a song from Cillian to Vincent. He’s hard to love now that he’s done what he’s done. “But I've been the hardest to love. You're tryna let me go, yeah. And I can see it, I can see it. I've been the hardest to love. It's hard to let me go, yeah.” And! It’s still hard for Vincent to let Cillian go, even after everything.

69 année érotique by Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin

There are a couple Gainsbourg + Birkin songs mentioned in the book and this one was an easy pick for this list. So French and I love Birkin’s voice. So cute!

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) by ABBA

Vincent loves ABBA and I do too. Loup is in an electronic band called Anchois. At one of his shows, Loup plays this song for her because he knows she’s out there in the dark of the crowd and knows she loves it. It may be my favorite ABBA song, but honestly, it’s so hard for me to choose because I love them all!

Raconte toi by Yves Simon

I heard this song for the first time during lockdown while listening to Cillian Murphy’s show on BBC Radio. Before it played, he mentioned that there was something unexpected in the song…but you had to wait for it. I listened and waited for it…and I’ll never forget how it made me feel hearing that unexpectedness! I love-loved it so much and this song is so strange and mysterious to me and most of all, surprising. Like love. Raconte toi means tell yourself. In the song, he sings in French,“Tell yourself. Get some sheets 21x27, a pen. A super-eight camera, a tape recorder.” Vincent teaches a journaling class at the art museum. I’ve also included some of Vincent’s journal entries in Half-Blown Rose and there are small sections in the book that read like a screenplay. Her life is a French film and she is the one documenting it. Cillian wrote his book and now, Vincent is telling herself and the readers her own story.


Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker and the author of Every Kiss A War, Whiskey & Ribbons, So We Can Glow, and This Close to Okay. She lives in Kentucky with her husband and their two teenagers. Find more at LeesaCrossSmith.com.




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