Friday, April 29, 2016

Book Review: The Forbidden Orchid

The Forbidden Orchid
Sharon Biggs Waller
Viking, 2016
Genre: historical, YA, romance
Source: I won this copy from Brittany at Please Feed the Bookworm
Rating: 3 out of 5

~What It's About~
When Elodie's adventuring father fails to return to their home after his latest disastrous trip to acquire a rare orchid for his employer, Elodie finds herself trying to keep her family together.  Her mother has just had another baby and has fallen into a depression, the local Deacon is paying quite a bit attention to their family, and a man has come looking for her father, demanding a debt be paid. In 1860s England, Elodie has little say in what happens to her or her family.  She convinces her father that he must return to China to search gather the orchids his employer desires so that their family will be out of financial danger.  It doesn't take her very long to realize that her father will need her help, but will he accept it?  With the help of a new friend, Elodie will travel to China and help her father--whether he will allow it or not.  She knows what is expected of her in society, but she's not yet willing to bow to those expectations--not while her family's livelihood is at stake.

~The Good~
I liked Elodie a lot.  She's stuck in 1861 with a bunch of men telling her what to think and what's good for her, and she's smart enough to realize that she knows more than they do.  The best part is that she doesn't just keep her mouth shut--sometimes she attempts to do so, but usually she just tells them what she thinks in as polite a way as possible.  While her father is away, her mother is sick and Elodie is in charge.  She's keeping her younger sisters occupied, finding time to study her flowers in her little green house, and searching for answers about her father and why he refuses to come home to them.  When she finally finds him, he is broken and she realizes how much more she will have to take on and this excites her.  She wants to travel and to ride on a ship and see China and the orchids in their natural habitat.  Elodie longs to be free and adventuring, away from men who warn her against looking at orchids due their impropriety.  She is strong and able and manages to get herself on board a ship and stow away for weeks until the captain finds out.  

The Forbidden Orchid is entrenched in historical events about which I know very little.  Part of this book takes place in China immediately after The Second Opium War, and Elodie's father had been in China during the war while searching for orchids.  I also enjoyed the historical notes at the end of the novel that gave more information on various events and settings in which Elodie and other characters found themselves.

~The Not-So-Good~
I thought there was going to be more adventure, but the first half of the book was Elodie at home dealing with belittling men, or Elodie finding her father and helping him prepare for his journey.  I was waiting and waiting for her to just get on the boat already, but man it took forever.  When she finally did find herself on the boat, I felt like things had finally started to move and the story was beginning.  I wish that it had gone faster or that we started already there. I felt like there was a lot more I would have liked to see in the end that wasn't given as much time as her home life in the beginning. 

~Final Thoughts~
The Forbidden Orchid is a great historical romance.  Elodie is a strong female voice with opinions and ideas of her--ahead of her time.  She is impressive and likeable and makes it easy to want to find out her story--even if you have to wait awhile to truly get into it.  I enjoyed it.

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