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The Forbidden Orchid

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Staid, responsible 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?

392 pages, Hardcover

First published March 8, 2016

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About the author

Sharon Biggs Waller

8 books414 followers

Sharon Biggs Waller is the recipient of the Friends of American Writers award and the author of A Mad, Wicked Folly (Viking) and The Forbidden Orchid (Viking), both of which have garnered multiple starred reviews and awards. Her upcoming novel is a young adult contemporary called Girls on the Verge (Holt, April 2019). She's also a magazine journalist and has written several non-fiction books about horses—The Original Horse Bible (Fox Chapel Publishing), Advanced English Riding (Lumina Media), and In One Arena (Half Halt Press). Previously, she worked as a riding instructor at the Royal Mews in Buckingham Palace. In addition to writing, she is a dressage rider and trainer and Planned Parenthood volunteer. She lives on a ten-acre sustainable farm in the Midwest with her husband, Mark.
Visit her at www.sharonbiggswaller.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 250 reviews
Profile Image for Debby.
583 reviews540 followers
April 17, 2021
3 stars

Two years ago I fell completely head over heels for Sharon Biggs Waller's debut, A Mad, Wicked Folly. So the fact that I would pick up The Forbidden Orchid was kind of self-evident. Though well-researched and an interesting exposition of the setting, I didn't feel like this book quite lived up to my expectations.

The Forbidden Orchid is kind of an adventure story in China right around the end of the Second Opium War. It starts in Victorian England, where Elodie, in an effort to save her family, eventually sneaks onto a tea clipper to accompany her father to China. Her father is a plant hunter, and he owes a large debt of his secret and rare orchids. Their adventures take them all the way into the heart of China, through the wilderness and the starkly foreign culture.

Did that summary sound kind of ... blah? Well yeah. The thing is, I feel like this book taught me a lot. I didn't know much about the Opium Wars, and some of the horrors that occurred there. I didn't know that plant hunting was actually a thing, and how intense of a competition it became between different companies and hunters. And all of these things were spectacularly researched, the proof of which is shown in the extensive author's notes at the end and the bibliography. So in that sense, this book definitely was enlightening.

But I'm a fiction reader. And the fictional story around it lacked heart. It was slow. It dragged. It was a lot of explanations and build up while the climax wasn't particularly heartrending. The characters were okay but not overly remarkable. The writing is good, though not as sweeping and beautifully artistic as it was in A Mad, Wicked Folly. And the romance, which held a lot of promise at first, fizzled out halfway through.

There are things Waller does well. She always lets her feminist spirit shine through her stories, and I loved how strong Elodie was in certain ways. She risked her reputation being absolutely ruined by sneaking on the ship, hid in Alex's cabin despite knowing what would happen if she was caught, and even dressed up as a boy, abandoning all of the female graces and values she was taught. When it gets tough, and she is challenged to hard labor and a kind of "hazing" on board, she does not back down for a second, because it's all in service to helping her father and saving her family. Even though in this time period, women weren't permitted to do much of anything, Elodie finds ways around the restrictions because she knows her value. At the end of the day, I will always respect that.

I think I'm most sad, though, about how that romance fizzled out. Seriously, it started off so great. Alex is a hot, humorous, and caring sailor. When he discovers Elodie on the ship, he takes her in to protect her. And THEY END UP SHARING A BED, because obviously that's the best place for her to hide. That's such an excellent trope that should lead to the best swoons ever. Well, then... it didn't. When Elodie is revealed, things happen that should have enhanced the swoon factor, but instead were needlessly complicated by a lack of communication. I hate it so much when characters both have feelings but just don't admit it and therefore think that the other is only acting the way they are because of the circumstances they're in. Yeah. Thanks for killing all the swoon. SO SAD.

Summing Up:

I started this book with high hopes, but it just didn't live up to them. The Forbidden Orchid is well-researched and a great exposition of China around the Opium Wars (though I will not vet for the accuracy of specific cultural aspects). But the story was just okay. It was good enough to keep reading, but the characters didn't really get me to care about them that much, and the story definitely dragged at times. Most of all, there was no thrilling climax or sweeping, beautiful romance. Sometimes... I wonder what the point of this story really was. But maybe I was just not its target audience.

GIF it to me straight!

Recommended To:

People who mostly want to LEARN about this setting. Because other than that, I'm at a loss.
Profile Image for The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori).
1,172 reviews1,307 followers
March 13, 2021
Full Review on The Candid Cover

Prepare to be amazed with this all new historical adventure! The Forbidden Orchid is a one of a kind book all about a hunt for a rare and valuable orchid. An interesting and complex father/daughter relationship makes this book even more believable. Though the book seems incredible already, there are three different settings, including China, making the story unforgettable.

The Forbidden Orchid has such a unique and intriguing concept. This book tells the story of a young girl who travels to China with her father to search for a rare orchid. The story becomes even more intense as orchid thieves are involved and fighting becomes an element. The significance of flowers in the novel is so creative, and I never would have thought that flower hunting was actually a thing.

One thing that is really interesting about The Forbidden Orchid is the father/daughter relationship. A lot of the time in books, parents don’t even exist, so I was very glad to see a complex relationship between Elodie and her dad. Honestly, the concern, protectiveness, and strictness that Elodie’s dad expresses makes the story so much more believable. Even reading about Elodie’s dad insisting that she can’t do things because she is a girl made the book more historically accurate.

The setting in The Forbidden Orchid is very interesting. Basically, the book is split into three different parts: England, on a boat, and China. It was actually sort of like reading three different stories because the sections are all so drastically different from each other. I especially enjoyed reading about China because it isn’t a very common setting in YA.

The Forbidden Orchid is a very unique book with a theme of flower hunting and a realistic father/daughter relationship. Three different and original settings add even more to the book. This is a definite must-read for historical fans.
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews907 followers
March 29, 2017
I enjoyed this one, especially the daughter and father relationship. We hardly get to see that played out in books, but this was a good one to read about. Plant hunting isn't something that I think of, but this book made me aware that it is a thing, and a dangerous one at that. Imagine having to find an elusive orchid in a country you just visited. Can be quite terrifying not knowing all the problems or obstacles one can encounter. I couldn't really relate to Elodie. I found her too superior when she visited China, that "you speak English?" statement is quite offensive and I wished it wasn't in the book. The highlight of the book is an adorable little dog that I just wanted to scoop up and hug. I liked this one, but I also grew a little weary of the tired plot.
Profile Image for Jen.
911 reviews113 followers
Shelved as 'incomplete'
December 21, 2015
DNF on page 70
*sighs* I feel like I should like this book. It has a pretty cool premise and I love historical YA. Waller also does a great job portraying how difficult it was to empower women in the 1860s. But I just am not clicking with the main character Elodie. All she seems to do is whine and her attachment to the orchid is.. uncomfortable? It's weird and I'd just rather stop reading. I'm still interested in reading her debut though!
Profile Image for Aila.
911 reviews32 followers
January 29, 2016
Aww, that ending made me so happy. :'))

- Pace was not fast (or not as fast as I expected), and kind of felt like a slow adventure where you take in the sights rather than jump from place to place.

- Main character, Elodie, is absolutely great. She is dependable, steadfast, and is always there for her sisters and mother. However, as she continues on in her journey she wants more- and this time for herself, rather than other people.

- I love seeing actual historical events in action in these kind of books and I can't complain about the accuracy. I could tell that research was done, and the characters fit in with their setting.

- Wish the romance was... More, I guess. It was too little, too quick and felt odd to me. But! It's still adorable and I rather liked it, especially with the dear Alex. What a sweetheart.

- I just love all the family and friendship going on in the book. <3
Profile Image for Nicole's Book Diaries.
106 reviews42 followers
May 23, 2016
Nope...I'm sorry guys but this is not my kind of book.

Unfortunately, I was lured in by the beautiful and gorgeous cover. More unfortunate that the story did not live up to its beautiful cover.

The book was excruciatingly slow and boring for about 60% of it. Most of the action happened after they got to China and then the rest of the book ended up rushed with an abrupt ending.

The character development was lacking and not just for the main character but also for the rest of the characters. There was not a lot of back story to them or any developments either. Elodie was a frustrating and immature main character. She also did not mature or develop throughout the book. To me, she just blabbed the whole way through her journey.

Overall, I just did not enjoy this book at all. I did not find the plot interesting and I did not enjoy reading about the main character. I finished it only to see what happens in the end.
Profile Image for Olga.
974 reviews140 followers
August 18, 2016
Al igual que su primer libro , siento que le ha faltado algo al libro ... Hay aventura y una historia personal de superación y de fortaleza por parte de ella. El libro está muy bien documentado y habla de una época de Inglaterra y de China poco escrito en este tipo de novelas y donde se refleja la situación de las personas que vivían tanto en Inglaterra como en China ( sobre todo de las mujeres )...

A pesar de todo eso , me ha faltado algo de química entre los personajes ( tanto entre el padre y ella como entre ella y alex) así como me ha faltado algo en la historia ( creo que el final es demasiado precipitado y que en 30 páginas se desarrolla todo la historia y desenlace ).... Ya me pasó con el primer libro que promete mucho pero luego se va desinflando poco a poco para acabar muy rápido ...
Profile Image for Vorágine (ig:voragineblog).
669 reviews123 followers
June 30, 2016
Pude leer de esta autora "Por amor al arte" y me encantó, tanto la historia como la importancia del feminismo. En este libro, la autora nos traslada a China (una ambientación muy original y que me ha encantado). El feminismo vuelve a jugar un papel importante en esta historia ambientada en el siglo XIX. También resaltan los hechos históricos y la crítica social, encubierta, pero muy clara.
Espero que esta autora vuelva a publicar nuevo libro muy pronto.

Reseña completa: http://voragineinterna.blogspot.com.e...
Profile Image for Angie.
329 reviews158 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
February 13, 2016
DNFed at 59%. JUST SO BORING. I don't care about the characters at all. The writing is good & it was obviously well researched and historically accurate but so. damn. boring. I've been skimming since probably the 40% mark and it's just not worth it. These characters have no personality and I honestly don't care if they find the damn orchid or not. Bummer.
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,718 reviews856 followers
May 2, 2017
The Forbidden Orchid was a well-written story with a rich, realistic and incredibly detailed historical setting, but it failed to grab my attention. The plotline was not unenjoyable by any stretch of the imagination but it certainly lacked that special something needed to make it truly shine. I just… I didn’t get anything from it. It was one of those rare books that was so easy to fly through but if I had put it down and somehow, accidently, forgot to ever pick it up again, I wouldn’t have spared a second thought wondering what would happen next. I didn’t feel particularly connected to the characters or the story so I wouldn’t have particularly cared whether Eloise wandered the Chinese wilderness forevermore. Waller just failed to hit that sweet spot between enjoyable and enthralling, between merely entertaining and actually engaging.

With the being said, the detail and accuracy of the historical setting were so flipping well done that it did make we want to keep reading. It was - by far - my favourite aspect of the book. I have read a lot of historical fiction set in this same time period and while some of those stories have managed to capture the Victorian culture of the time, I don’t think I have ever been so impressed with the richness of that portrayal. Everything from the dialogue to the characters’ mannerisms and the setting itself was perfect, even Eloise’s internal monologue was distinctively Victorian. It even mentioned how women dealt with their periods and the lack of birth control in this time (!!) which is something too many books gloss over. I appreciated the incorporation of the era’s sexism, homophobia and racism, even if that sort of language and thinking was difficult to read at times its erasure would be inaccurate. I also just simply enjoyed seeing how the characters - all of different ethnicities and backgrounds - navigated the language barriers and the clash of their cultures and customs. The exploration of the science vs religion debate in this era was also cleverly incorporated; understanding how Eloise balanced her faith (which was not written in an overpowering or preachy way, thank goodness; it was just accurate to the times) with her interest in science was oddly fascinating, especially with Darwin’s recent scientific revelations/theories. Waller definitely has a knack for historical fiction.

The reason I struggled to enjoy this book as a whole was the plotline. It was so unmotivated! The pacing itself was quite slow, which I did not expect with this premise, and the dense beginning didn’t really help, but even the expedition itself - which should have been exciting - was quite dull. It lacked a sense of urgency that was much needed. I didn’t feel like that Waller managed to quite capture Eloise’s desperation or the pressure she had on her shoulders to succeed with their expedition. There needed to be something really driving the plotline along and there was nothing that did that. It was unnecessarily boring and I just could not shake that… stillness, that not quite vibe of the story. The ending was also a little rushed.

Eloise was a steadfast, headstrong protagonist who was admirably loyal and hardworking. She was a little naive at times but I felt that was completely appropriate given the historical setting and her gender if a little frustrating. I found Alex sweet but lacking personality and the other secondary characters were just too meh for me to even remember their names. I just… I don’t know. I didn’t really connect to any of the characters. They weren’t bad or unlikeable characters, just ultimately forgettable, and the romance was incredibly wishy washy. Maybe it was just Alex’s lack of personality but I didn’t think his and Eloise’s relationship was anything other than bland. They had no chemistry, whatsoever, and it was rushed and awkward.

I do need to say that I absolutely loved that there was a bibliography at the end of the book. Honestly, I wish that all books had to do this because I know when I write, I do a shit ton of research on everything from the cultural quirks of my characters to what year the toilet was invented in, from the plotline of Downton Abbey to the medical symptoms of radiation poisoning and the science of supernovas. I loved knowing how much the author read about the era: the Opium Wars, Chinese culture/language and even the Orchid Fever! It was good to know that they put the effort into making their story as believable and authentic as possible.


The Forbidden Orchid was a well-written story and I had to admire Waller for her historical setting. It was so, so well done. However, I struggled with the plodding plotline and how dull the expedition turned out to be. I desperately wanted more urgency from the story or at least a faster pacing. Eloise was a decent protagonist but the cast, as a whole, was pretty meh and unmemorable. I was especially disappointed by the romance, which was a flop. I do want to read more of Waller’s stories because I think I her writing has so much potential. I just wanted more from this particular book.
Profile Image for Erin Arkin.
1,662 reviews356 followers
January 17, 2016
I love Historical Fiction and when I read the summary of The Forbidden Orchid, I was immediately interested. I loved A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller so there was no question in my mind that I was going to read this book. Also, I kind of love that cover!

The story spends a good amount of time setting up the story. Elodie is the oldest daughter of a plant hunter and is growing up in a small English town in the 1860’s. As you might guess, the era doesn’t really allow girls a lot of freedom and Elodie has resigned herself to the fact that being the eldest, she will have to be the one to help her mother with the younger children because her father is gone almost all the time. As someone who is free to do what I want, it is always interesting to me to read stories like this as the expectations and even the sensibilities toward women during this time period made me cringe at times.

When Elodie’s father comes home from his last trip and refuses to join the family at the house, things start to go downhill for the family. Apparently their father didn’t meet the terms of his last contract and because of this, the family is told they may have to go to the work house to pay off his debt. When Elodie goes to her father, she finds him to be a very broken version of the man she knew from his last visit. She doesn’t know exactly what happened but when she tells her father about their problems, he resigns himself to the fact that he will have to go back to China for the flowers. While her father is making arrangements down at the docks, Elodie meets Alex and she is immediately drawn to him and his dog. When Elodie realizes just how much danger this trip is for her father and also what failure could mean for them, she boards the ship dressed as a boy and the adventure begins.

I love a book that has solid characters and I thought that Waller did a good job of building out who these characters were as well as the relationships between them. I thought the relationship between Elodie and Alex was done well and while there were definitely times where I just wanted them to get over their insecurities with each other, I really did like them together. I do wish we had seen a bit more of the building of their relationship aboard the ship – those late night conversations would have revealed a bit more about who they are together and outside of being forced together, why they wanted to be together.

I also liked seeing the change in the relationship Elodie has with her father. As their roles reverse in finding the flowers, Elodie begins to realize what she wants. She just needs to stand up for herself and fight for it. I also thought the secondary characters added quite a bit to the story. Ching Lan grew on me after a while but I have to admit, I found her somewhat annoying at first.

Waller definitely did her research around China and the Opium War and captured what I imagine the feelings toward outsiders would be. I found it fascinating as this isn’t a topic I normally pick up or even know anything about. Overall I enjoyed this story and thought it wrapped up well. If you liked Waller’s other book I think you might enjoy this one as well. I look forward to more from her as an author as she does a wonderful job of putting the reader into the time frame and includes enough history, action, and romance to interest anyone.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy!
Profile Image for Pili.
1,164 reviews216 followers
February 26, 2016
I was pretty sure after A Mad Wicked Folly, but now having read The Forbidden Orchid, I know that Sharon Biggs Waller writes the kind of historical fiction that reminds me why I love the genre! Thoroughly researched, painted so vividly you can feel the earth under your nails and the sea breeze on you face! With amazing & complex characters and a journey that is never as straightforward as you'd expect.

Elodie is the oldest on a family of ten girls with a father that spends most of the time away, travelling the world and finding new plants for collectors and scientists. She is both responsible and level headed and also a little bit eccentric since she isn't one to conform exactly to the society's expectations. I absolutely loved reading through her journey of discovering who she is and growing into the woman she wants to be. She had the rebellion and the fear and the strength to try and do what she thought was right. And thankfully also had the common sense to try and learn from others when need be, even if she was a bit of the "I will go on by sheer force of will if need be" variety.

I loved that there was a lot of emphasis in the family dynamics, between Elodie and her sisters, the relationship between their parents, Elodie and her dad, and then the different relationships with a different culture once we start the journey in search of the orchid. I loved that Elodie was most of the time torn between defiance & compliance and that she learnt what battles to fight upfront and which ones to try and turn her way in more subtle ways.

I've already mentioned the fantastic world building and the attention to detail that Sharon so easily slips everywhere, but I just love how completely you feel like you are there in the China seas, or the jungle looking for an orchid, or the English countryside.

The book felt a lil slow in the beginning but I think that was more my impatience with getting onto the travelling in China and getting onto the orchid search than the book's fault. You cannot have a girl in 1861 go trampling in search of an orchid without some proper set up and serious circumstances! But once things started getting in motion, the pacing was as flawless as always!

There's romance in the book, and oh boy, was I rooting for them both since the very first moment! And if we do add the most adorable doggie ever to the book... there's plenty of cute moments! And some very necessary ones to lighten the mood here and there. There's a point when you might want to shake Elodie, but she really needs to learn to make her own choices, so do have patience with her!

A really wonderful historical fiction book that I absolutely adored and cannot wait to read as a finished copy next!! Very much deserved 5 stars!
Profile Image for Kara.
539 reviews168 followers
February 12, 2016
4.5 stars. Excellent, excellent book. So close to perfect. I LOVED Elodie, but what kept this from being a perfect book for me is that I lacked an emotional connection to the characters. AGAIN. I am beginning to believe it's me. I mean, the romance was super cute, but I wasn't feeling the chemistry. That said, this is the ONLY part that didn't work for me.

Excellent subject matter, well-researched, perfectly executed story arc, and the book even surprised me a little at the end. I had it all planned in my mind how it was going to end, and I was entirely wrong. I love when this happens! And I loved that this book did something different, rather than end it in a tropey, cliched way.

The book is divided into three parts: England, At Sea, China. And I wish there was less time spent in England and more time spent in China, because the China parts were fascinating. I now have an interest in a time period in history that I really didn't know much about before. Tea clippers? I didn't even know those existed. I knew a little about the Opium Wars but I didn't know how disastrous it actually got. Plant hunters? I didn't know those existed either. These are my favorite kind of books--the ones that you learn things from.

Elodie was a lovely, flawed heroine. Strong but mouthy. Brave but a bit reckless. Utterly headstrong in a time where it was frowned upon for women to be so. And yet, it never stopped her. Oh man, parts of this book made me angry with the sexism. I HATE how women were treated. If I had been alive back then, I'm not sure I would have made it. I know I would have been diagnosed with hysteria and probably thrown in an asylum. Can you imagine?'

The scenes aboard The Osprey were my favorites, I think. The entire book was incredibly well done, but I feel the middle section where Elodie is at sea were perhaps the most vivid. I clearly need to read more books about adventuring and pirates because I loved that part.

I really, really adored this book. I know when the end of the year rolls around and I am picking my favorites, this one is going to stick out bigtime. It's memorable, it's exciting, and it really just pulls you into the story as if you are Elodie and she is you. I can't recommend it enough.
Profile Image for Fictional World Dreamer.
189 reviews66 followers
Shelved as 'thank-you-next'
March 31, 2016
I'm sorry to say but this story was a regrettable waste of time. These characters have no personality and it was so. boring. I really love Historical Fiction. But this was just a big lump of dullness to me.
It was a boring and a dreadful story. And I couldn't justified myself to finish it.

I've realized that I'm the black sheep here. But I'm all about honest is the best policy. And because of that I won't even rate this book. This book just wasn't for me.


Plus, the complication a blogger had with this author was just a big, no, no.. Totally turned me off.

Profile Image for KL (Cat).
177 reviews131 followers
Want to read
September 15, 2015
I'm not going to judge since I haven't read it yet, but this book better not romanticise 1860s China, because let's just say that the aftermath of the Second Opium War and its effects on the country was not pretty.
Profile Image for Marian Lopez.
72 reviews7 followers
August 14, 2016
La sinopsis cuenta medio libro por lo que me ha resultado algo aburrido y por eso le doy tres estrellas.
Profile Image for Natalia.
430 reviews30 followers
July 5, 2016
La orquídea prohibida ha sido, para mí, una novela perfecta. Me ha gustado la trama, tan llena de aventuras y salpicada de hechos reales con personajes que existieron de verdad; me han gustado los personajes, sobre todo la protagonista, tan real, tan valiente, tan llena de miedos e inseguridades; me ha gustado la trama romántica, tan bonita, dulce y adorable; me ha gustado la época en la que transcurre y los lugares que se mencionan, No podría recomendarla más.

Reseña: http://www.arte-literario.com/2016/07...
Profile Image for Tanner.
87 reviews
April 27, 2016
This was a breath of fresh air to the YA historical fiction genre.
And much like These shallow graves, of which it shared a similar vibe, I loved every page. Not to mention just how wonderfully written it was, the words roll off the pages in soft rhythmic patterns designed for perfection. The pacing is slow, but over all it's just a very enjoyable read for fans of historical fiction.
Profile Image for Britt.
318 reviews81 followers
April 10, 2016
bookworm bites best

Hello my fellow bookworms! You know how sometimes you have read all those books but just don't have the words or time for a full review? I certainly do and thus Bookworm Bites was born. These are essentially mini reviews. Enough to give you a good idea about my feelings though. Hope you enjoy!

mini review

This book exceeded my already high expectations. Thanks to my darling friend Pili, I was introduced to Sharon Biggs Walter with her first book, A Mad Wicked Folly. I loved it. I was expecting a crazy expedition about some flower. What I got was so so much more. There was so many different unique settings which was such a huge portion of the book, such as a clipper ship and the journey itself through China. There was also a perfect introduction to the new love of my life Alex. He was such an intricate part of Elodie's journey and in a totally non-romantic way (smirk). I loved this book so much that I know I am jumping all over the place but there was not a single thing I wasn't entranced by. You can tell Sharon was incredibly well versed in the times and the goings on. Everything felt so extremely authentic. It seems like Elodie's sudden travels from her safe life in England to a grand adventure to procure an rare Orchid is a bit grandiose but, it was told in such a perfect manner that it felt realistic. Such a perfect read for Historical Fiction lovers like myself. Its a perfect blend of suspense, family, love, adventure, and self discovery. Don't be fooled by the blurb it's about so much more than a flower.


mini review

THIS IS NOT A RETELLING OF JANE EYRE! I would say it's an extremely loosely based on it. Blurbs can be so deceiving. What this book is is an extremely smart, tale of a girl who grows into a woman and deals with some very unfortunate situations. The writing itself is incredible tongue and cheek. I LOVED it! The beginning was a bit slow and I was very unsure if I was even going to finish reading but once over those initial 50 pages I was knee deep in witty delight. This is not a Mike Myers type of killer. It is more victim of circumstance who doesn't let the world come down on her. Jane's voice and perspective are simply splendid and wildly entertaining. This is a MUST read for anyone who enjoys a witty smart tale about about a woman who take sher future into her own hands in a time when that was unheard of.

“I hope that the epitaph of the human race when the world ends will be: Here perished a species which lived to tell stories.
We tell stories to strangers to ingratiate ourselves, stories to lovers to better adhere us skin to skin, stories in our heads to banish the demons. When we tell truth, often we are callous; when we tell lies, often we are kind. Through it all, we tell stories, and we own an uncanny knack for the task.”
Lyndsay Faye, Jane Steele

This review was originally posted on Please Feed the Bookworm Click here to keep reading bout my feels!

Profile Image for Cassie.
328 reviews60 followers
April 27, 2016
I am a Victorian period enthusiast. It’s a period in history where the roles of women were evolving; adventure challenged Victorian ideas and socio-cultural understandings; and literature shaped societal outcomes. Similar to traditional Victorian novels, Sharon Biggs Waller’s The Forbidden Orchid reflects traditional tropes commonly found in nineteenth-century literature. Ideally, the author includes a feisty female lead, patriarchy’s fear of female transgression, and the British Empire’s imperial ambitions to tame “other” civilizations.

Waller’s main character, Elodie Buchanan, is one of the most satisfying female characters I have read in a long time. She is funny, witty, and damn it, she doesn’t take anyone’s disapproval to heart, especially from her local clergyman. Like her father, who is a plant hunter, Elodie has an innate sense of adventure, discovery, and independence. Unlike her father, who seems to lack the idea that he needs to be more emotional involved with his wife and ten daughters, Elodie takes on the responsibility to help her family unite emotionally, physically, and financially.

Additionally, the sense of adventure is scattered throughout the story. Elodie encounters the thieves of the English streets, the sea sickness of the rough seas, and China’s beautiful plants but humid terrain. Elodie’s sly abilities to escape the thresholds of patriarchy’s rules and her safe English home, and then venture onto a clipper like the Osprey, allows her to transgress from the domestic sphere and gain access to the public sphere, suited “only” for men. Elodie, like many adventure-seekers, romanticizes about the journey to new discoveries. But Waller doesn’t make this a story of “happy travels”; she provides insightful perspectives, ruthless villains, and plot twists that focus on the upsets, tragedies, and obstacles many explorers encounter.

There is never a dull moment in Elodie’s adventure to China in search of the Queen’s Fancy, a rare orchid with a beautiful aroma. Of course, one of my favorite moments of her adventure is when Elodie meets Alex, a Russian sailor, and his energetic dog, Kukla. Elodie’s relationship with Alex is a challenge, and I loved the development of friendship, companionship, and love between these two.

RANTS: In all honesty, I don’t have a single rant for this book. I have been out of graduate school for three years, and The Forbidden Orchid projected me back to a time where I not only loved reading, but learning from it too. The whole books stands as a true reflection of Victorian norms and changes that early suffragettes included in their steps to change patriarchal conventions.

RAVES: The overall plot is filled with adventure, but Elodie definitely steals each scene with her witty banter, determination, and independent thoughts. She illuminates a powerful stance that disrupts the status quo in English society and even on a clipper ship full of bawdy males. I can definitely tell that Waller put a lot of thought, energy, and research into this novel, so she could capture a true depiction of the Victorian realm and the Chinese culture of the nineteenth century .
Profile Image for Andrea.
291 reviews55 followers
January 17, 2016
Sharon's debut young adult novel, A Mad, Wicked Folly  was one of my favorite reads of 2015. Historical novels where women are fighting for their voices are a big "Give me this book now!" Much like Vicky, Elodie is longing for more. She wants to be able to travel the world with her father and find adventure, but it stuck at home caring for her mother and nine younger sisters. Her father (who comes home roughly once a year, impregnates his wife, then leaves again), is a plant hunter and searches the world for new and exotic plants and flowers.

After a series of events (that's I won't elaborate on because spoilers), Elodie, her father, and an adorable Russian named Alex head off to the remote regions of China in search of The Queen's Fancy. Speaking of Alex, and I won't go too much into the details of their relationship because I don't want to ruin anything, but due to their circumstances and the time period, it was a slow burn of a relationship that made all the sense in the world. Some of the scenes between these two are breathtakingly cute and I took to Alex right away, and not just because of his dog, Kukla.

Sharon knows how to write amazing women in a time where women were voiceless. Elodie is an exceptionally strong character (if her and Vicky's stories weren't 48 years apart, I could see them becoming fast friends) who not only dreams of more but eventually decides to take more. She doesn't take things at face value and questions the local doctor, the Deacon, her father, and every man that tells her she can't because she is a woman and has a "delicate constitution." One of the scenes that made me laugh occurs after the Deacon tells her to get ride of her orchid and has his mother explain to Elodie why:

"The bottom half, this . . . pouch" - she was whispering so quietly that I had to lean in to hear here - "resembles a man's . . . parts. And the top of this flower resembles a lady's" - she waved her hand below her waistband - "bits."

"Oh," I said, I looked at the plant, and I could see it, at least i thought I could see it, having never seen the male part myself, but it made sense. Then I couldn't help it. I began to laugh and laugh despite Mrs. Wainright's sputters of indignation.

And I could not stop.

One of my favorite things about Sharon's novels is that they are fictional tales seeped in a nonfictional world. Plant Hunters were a real thing, Tea Clipper ships were a real thing, the war in China she references was a real thing, the state of China to Westerns after said war was a real thing. By researching these historical attributes thoroughly, Sharon brings her novels to life, creating a story and characters full of truth and honesty. I cannot wait to see what Sharon comes out with next!


Read this review and more at Bookish Lifestyle
Profile Image for Tati.
937 reviews85 followers
May 17, 2016
This book fell short for several reasons.

Firstly, its priorities are all wrong. Considering that the story claims to center around an orchid in China, it should take it much less than over half the book for the characters to actually land in China. Because it takes so long to transport the characters to China, the last 40% feel rushed. After all that buildup, I was left with a deep insatisfaction over character development.

Speaking of character, I know it's because in Vitorian England women were only supposed to look pretty, but Elodie was annoying as hell. She was so so so naive, I wanted to slap her. Her dad was the worse, however. Another thing that was much, much odd was her parents' relationship. Lots of things flew under the radar there.
Profile Image for Mundie Moms & Mundie Kids.
1,952 reviews204 followers
March 21, 2016
This was an interesting book. I loved the diversity of it. I liked that it was something different than what I was excepting. I liked that it's a book that stands by itself. There's adventures, and history, which I enjoyed. Overall I didn't love it, and but I didn't not like it either. It's a good read that offers something different for YA readers who don't want to read another fantasy, contemporary or dystopian book.

Read my FULL REVIEW here http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/2016/0...
Profile Image for Meegz Reads.
1,366 reviews104 followers
February 5, 2017
This wasn't a bad book, but it didn't capture me throughout the way other books have. I have read Miss Biggs Waller's other book and I enjoyed that one quite a lot more. This was good, but I found it very slow at the beginning. I quite liked Alex as a character, but he was the only character that I can truly say I really liked. The premise of the book is a good adventure, but I don't know, it just wasn't as good as I was hoping. Good but not fantastic. Not terrible either though. Somewhere in the middle.
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