Staff Review: "The Forbidden Orchid"
As the eldest daughter of ten in a rural village in 1861 England, Elodie knows and fulfills society’s expectations by helping her mother and caring for her younger sisters. Her father, who hunts exotic plants in China, is rarely home except for his annual Christmas visits. Elodie shares his interest in science and botany and makes the small greenhouse at her house her own, but she is discontented and tired of condescending authority figures who do not take kindly to her questions. Caught up in an incident in the last Opium War, her father returns to England an emotionally and physically scarred man and without the promised rare orchids for his employer. Faced with the prospect of her father being jailed and her family sent to the workhouse or orphanage, Elodie persuades her father to return to China to find the rare Queen’s Fancy Orchid. However, realizing that her father cannot survive the journey alone, she boards the tea clipper as a stowaway, intent on helping her father and saving her family regardless of the dangers she must face. Waller expertly mines the historical setting (without overwhelming readers) to explore the constraints of Elodie’s world and provides vivid portraits of life in Victorian England, life at sea, and 1860s China. It is a compelling story of adventure, duty, and romance from the point-of-view of a smart, witty protagonist who is of her (Victorian) era. The stakes are considerably higher for Elodie than they were for Victoria Darling, the protagonist of Waller’s first book, but fans of "A Mad, Wicked Folly" are likely to enjoy this book. This book will also appeal to teen and adult fans of historical fiction that explore the lives of young women.