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Review: The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller

Title: The Forbidden Orchid
Author: Sharon Bigs Waller
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA historical fiction
Pages: 378
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)UK and China

FTC Disclosure: I have an old Advanced Uncorrected Galley

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 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 plan 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 and 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, 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 ver go back to being the staid, responsible Elodie that everybody needs?

Review: I have had this book on my shelves forever! I'm not sure why it took me so long to read it as I really enjoyed Mad Wicked Folly by the same author. Once I got going on this one, I couldn't put it down.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and this book does not disappoint. I could really "see" the clothes, the ships, the flowers, and sense the tensions among the classes and genders in this book. And I do love a strong female in a time when women were seen as nothing more than ornamental and frail. Elodie wants more from life than sitting around taking care of her 8 siblings; she wants adventure, learning, and love. It's great to see her getting all three because of her own actions.

As with most historical fiction, I learned a lot from this novel. And, if you read this blog often, you know I like it when an author has information at the end of the book that fills in the facts of story. Waller does this in spades as she tells the reader more about life for women in the late 1800s, orchids, opium, plant hunters, the tea trade with China, and Kew Gardens (London).

Challenges for which this counts:  none

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