The Orchid House
By: Lucinda Riley
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
As a child Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the great house where her grandfather tended exotic orchids. Years later, while struggling with overwhelming grief over the death of her husband and young child, she returns to the tranquility of the estate. There she reunites with Kit Crawford, heir to the estate and her possible salvation.
When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park. Their search takes them back to the 1930s when a former heir to Wharton Park married his young society bride on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt on generations to come.
Aside from The Lavender Garden (review), I had been eyeing this book by Lucinda Riley for a long time. I got a copy of this book early last year. Two interesting things I found out about this book when I started reading it: it does go by another title, Hothouse Flower, and that this is her first novel under her name (she previously published as Lucinda Edmonds).
What prompted me to find out when this book was published was because of the writing: I thought the spaces between the paragraphs in the first chapter was a little weird and rather distracting. Certain elements of the story caught my attention–What happened to Julia’s husband and son, the tenuous relationship between Julia and her sister Alicia, the strange force of nature that is Kit Crawford, Grandfather Bill’s diary–as well as the prospect that part of the “historical” storyline will be set in Thailand, which is cool as I haven’t read many World War Two novels that are set in the Pacific theatre.
Unfortunately my reaction to most of the novel was “meh.” For one thing, the historical side of the storyline with Harry the heir to Wharton Park and his new bride Olivia was not what I expecting, the above blurb is a bit of a mislead 😛 It’s still interesting but with a set-up like that, you know where the tragedy is take place and an idea of how its impact will appear in the present-day storyline. Like The Lavender Garden, I was strangely more interested in the modern-day storyline and how things were unfolding from Julia’s side. Also I’m not sure if it was the mood I was in when I was reading this book or the way the respective stories unfolded but I gradually lost interest/empathy for most of the characters; at times I felt sorry for them, but I don’t think I ever truly clicked with the characters, they felt a bit remote. But I will say, wow at Kit Crawford, I don’t think I’ve quite come across a character as…I don’t know, heart-on-my-sleeve-here-it-is, quite like him in recent memory.
I should note, as I was reading this book I found out that my copy was missing 33 pages. It ultimately didn’t affect my overall experience of the book (though I was initially shocked), though I did miss one major scene/development.
Overall The Orchid House was an okay read. The premise was interesting, and the tragedy quite affecting for the whole cast of characters, and maybe it was my mood at the time but I just didn’t really click with the characters. Things really started picking up towards end with the revelations and reveals and tying up the two stories together, not to mention there was a bit of a twist that happens as well in the last third of the novel that’ll leave readers all “Wut? O_O” but overall I’d recommend reading the author’s other books before picking this one up.