Publisher: Viking (March 8th 2016)
Hardcover: 392 pages
Add on: Goodreads
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters living in a small English market town in 1861. The girls barely know their father, a plant hunter usually off adventuring through China. 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. But now, even if she can find the orchid, how can she ever go back to being the staid, responsible Elodie that everybody needs?
I fell in love with A Mad, Wicked Folly last year so when I saw the cover for The Forbidden Orchid it was love at first sight and one that I needed to read ASAP because part of the book sets in China. However, I ended up having mixed feelings about the book and fell more slightly on the disappointed side. Okay, so I really tried to sympathize with Elodie because at that time girls weren’t supposed to travel or do boyish things and if they did it was consider scandalous. However, when she does get her wish granted and galavants off to the unknown world with her father her character disappointed me. She became not only annoying (the girl whined about so many things that made me think look are you sure you really want an adventure?) but also her thoughts about Asian people offended me. I don’t know why, but especially when she discovers not all Asian go through foot binding and is shocked at the emperor having concubines (she doesn’t even know what a concubine is) I thought why is she supposed to be so surprised about it? Maybe I shouldn’t have been so harsh about her character. Then again I have to remember that Elodie doesn’t have access to the world wide web of information so it’s kind of frustrating not to strangle her for not being more knowledgable with the Asian culture. The only thing that she does have to make up for the lack of internet are her father’s books and the books he has are more or less about plants, which is I guess forgivable but still…
Aside from that part of the novel, I really quite liked the relationship between Alex and Elodie. It was emotional and seductive. I loved the tension and, guys, if there’s one thing I love about Sharon Biggs Waller’s novels is that that she knows how to leave you in an emotional mess. While I enjoyed the convience of marriage trope I really wanted one of them to say that they’re not really married but on the inside they’re frantically having a meltdown of emotions like we are and it’s frustrating when that does not happen. Like HOW CAN YOU BE CALM ABOUT ALL THIS? I really don’t get it. Like they have a meltdown for one or two sentences and then everything is like normal. As far as other relationships are concerned there’s also her relationship between Elodie and her father. Her sister, Violetta, is clearly not very keen about their father, like Elodie, who galavants through the world in search of flowers. Which gets them into trouble and leaves them destitute. Their bond is tested when Elodie goes off to China with her father.
Anyways, like I said before, The Forbidden Orchid left me with mixed feelings. Sometimes I didn’t really care for Elodie, but I loved how the journey with her father and Alex made her open up about the world.