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The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller

The Forbidden Orchid

by Sharon Biggs Waller

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Elodie’s father comes home from a plant hunting trip in China completely devastated in both mind and body. When Elodie learns that her family will be ruined unless her father can secure a rare orchid from China, she slips onto the ship, determined to help him.

This book just hooked me. It had interesting characters, a strong willed female and an exotic locale. It was well written and hard to put down. Overall, well worth picking up. ( )
  JanaRose1 | Apr 20, 2016 |
The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller is a historical romance novel set in Edencroft, Kent, England (goes from 1859 through 1862). Elodie Buchanan is the eldest sister (boy died before she was born) at seventeen. Elodie has nine sisters. Their father, Reginald Buchanan, is a plant hunter and only returns once a year (to get mum pregnant again). He now considers himself a man of science (though he used to study theology). Their mother is a bishop’s daughter. She thought she was marrying a future priest (you have to feel sorry for her). Reginald does not understand girls and is distant with them. Instead of a dollhouse for the girls, he brought a Wardian case set up a fairy garden (only Elodie appreciated it) with delicate plants in it. The parents argue and Reginald is off again. This time he does not return home. Something happens to him in China, and he will not come home. Elodie finds out that Reginald reneged on a contract for a rare orchid to Erasmus Pringle. He either has to return to China for the orchid or pay the amount in the contract (which he does not have). Elodie talks her father into returning to China with her by his side (Reginald really does not wish to return). Her father nixes the idea of Elodie going with him. Elodie helps him get ready for the trip. They have to hurry because Reginald needs to find the orchid before a rival plant hunter. Whoever retrieves it first, gets the money (and then the father will still be in hot water—debtor’s prison). Elodie is sent home just before her father sets sail. An encounter at the train station has Elodie sneaking aboard the ship. Elodie is in for the adventure of a lifetime and she cannot wait!

The Forbidden Orchid is interesting, but I did find the novel a little slow (and predictable). I could have told you how this novel would end from the time Elodie stowed away on the ship. The descriptions of the orchids were just lovely. It was also interesting to find out more about the life of plant hunters. Nowadays, we just go to our local nursery to purchase flowers. I found the Victorian viewpoints on orchids to be ridiculous (I wanted to deck Deacon Wainwright, the pompous blowhard). I give The Forbidden Orchid 3.75 out of 5 stars. Would I read this book again? No. Did I enjoy it? Yes, and no. I just wanted something more (less predictability). Would I read another book by this author? Maybe (depends upon the subject matter)! I did enjoy the mystery of the missing orchid (someone stole it from Elodie’s Wardian case).

I received a complimentary copy of The Forbidden Orchid from NetGalley in exchange for an honest evaluation of the book. ( )
  Kris_Anderson | Apr 15, 2016 |
An enjoyable story about a young woman who comes of age. Elodie has been her mother’s help and support in the absence of her father, but a series of events pushes her into the sudden decision to travel with her father and help him. In doing this, she finds out just what she is capable of and what she wants to do. The fact that there’s a man involved doesn’t hurt—there’s just enough chaste romance for it to be a bonus, without being the focus.

Some have criticized Elodie for being naïve, but let’s not forget the time in which she lives—women were kept naïve on purpose, for fear that anything knowledge of sex or the harder things in life might cause her to swoon.

Speaking of the time, the author provides a fairly extensive bibliography of works she consulted in research of the time, place and issues of this story.

The characters are believable, if sometimes frustrating. Modern female readers will find the restrictions placed on Elodie to be outrageously annoying. Again, remember the context.

Descriptions are good; the book is well-edited. Language is appropriate to the target age group.

Possible Objectionable Material:
Only the mildest of Victorian cursing. Some violence and threats of violence. A man and woman share a bed, but nothing happens.

Who Might Like This Book:
Those who like romance, a little adventure, coming of age. Definitely skews to female audiences; while there are male characters, they are mainly secondary, except for the love interest. The target age range is appropriate.

Thank you, NetGalley, for the ARC. ( )
  swingdancefan | Apr 11, 2016 |
Orchids and the Orient: a riveting Victorian adventure

This exotic Victorian story leads us from a small English village into the dangerous depths of China. Seventeen year old Elodie Buchanan takes on the responsibility of accompanying her father to China to hunt for a particular orchid, the Queen's Fancy in order to restore the family fortunes. Mind you, her father is unaware that she has joined him on the clipper Osprey, fortuitously aided by Alexander Balashov the second mate, until near to the end of the voyage.
Mr. Buchanan returned from his last plant hunt in the orient a broken man, having been caught up in the end of the Opium Wars with China in 1860 at Tien-Tsin, where he appears to have been captured and tortured. He's refused to see his family, has hidden out in a cottage in Kew Gardens, avoiding all. Unfortunately, as he didn't fulfill his orchid finding contract with the malevolent collector Mr. Erasmus Pringle, he is being forced to return to China (the last place he can bear to be) to save his family, his wife, Elodie and her nine sisters, from the poorhouse and himself from debtor's prison.
There is so much that happens in this story. I really don't want to reveal it all. I must however mention the Victorian attitudes to orchids, which is hilarious in today's context. An unfit topic for women apparently, due to the similarity to male genitalia. What! We all scream indignantly, you have to be joking! No joke, just Victorian morality and fears. A fact that plays out in Elodie's village life and opinions of the busy body village spokespersons.
The action continues in China with a heightening tension that carries us forward. Elodie and her father are accompanied by Alex and a Chinese girl Ching Lang in their search for the rare orchid. Their party is dogged by serious troubles in the form of a dangerous plant hunter, Luther Duffey, that Elodie had the misfortune to encounter in England.
I really enjoyed this story. It was unusual in its subject matter and fascinating in its execution, combining far flung places, other cultures and peoples, mystery and adventure with a touch of romance, set in Victorian times. For some reason I actually was not aware that this fell into the YA orbit. To me it's a story that moves beyond that narrow category. A pity to confine it in this way.
At the end of the novel is a collection of very succinct and interesting notes about matters encountered in the novel and a most Impressive bibliography.
A NetGalley ARC ( )
  eyes.2c | Mar 13, 2016 |
A lush, romantic historical YA that employs several of my favorite romance tropes to good effect. Girl "disguised" as a boy? Check. Marriage in name only to prevent scandal? Check. Young woman interested in a life beyond the one society expects of her? Check.

This novel will appeal not just to lovers of YA romance, but to readers of adult historical romance, especially those who prefer their romances "clean".

( )
  BillieBook | Mar 1, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451474112, Hardcover)

Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters growing up in a small English market town in 1861. The girls barely know their father, a plant hunter usually off adventuring through China, more myth than man. Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan reneges on his contract to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid. He will be thrown into debtors’ prison while his daughters are sent to the orphanage and the workhouse.
Elodie can’t stand by and see her family destroyed, so she persuades her father to return to China once more to try to hunt down the flower—only this time, despite everything she knows about her place in society, Elodie goes with him. She has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China. She comes to find that both the world and her place in it are so much bigger than she’d ever dreamed. But now, even if she can find the orchid, how can she ever go back to being the staid, responsible Elodie that everybody needs?

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 04 Aug 2015 16:08:20 -0400)

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