The Hook: I saw this on one of the NextReads Historical Fiction newsletters. That’s pretty much a dangerous place for me to be. I loved the beautiful blue dress on the cover and the idea that the book was centered around a lady’s slipper orchid was something I couldn’t resist. When I was little, my grandparents had a little camp on a lake. Behind the lake was a woodsy patch we would visit every so often and it was a magical place. You would go in and the pines would block out all the noise from the main road. There was an old burnt out house in the middle. The lilacs there had gone wild and the floor of the woods was carpeted with lilies of the valley. The heady scent was almost too much and to this day those to flowers are among my favorites. Often times when we went in, we would find a little patch of lady’s slippers. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, unless I was in a botanical garden. We knew they were rare even before “endangered species” was a common phrase, so I have some idea how the flower effected the people in this book.
To say Alice Ibbetson is a lover of plants is an understatement. Her father was a connoisseur and she paints botanical specimens with incredible accuracy. Since her younger sister died, Alice has locked herself in her summer house to garden and paint. When Richard Wheeler, her newest neighbor, hears of her love of plants, he shows her the rare lady’s slipper that is blooming on his property. Alice becomes obsessed. She urges him to transplant it, so that no one will steal it and to propagate it. Wheeler refuses. For him, the orchid is there by the will of God and he will not remove it. Contrary to her nature, Alice steals the orchid from under Wheeler’s nose. That act sets in motion a whirlwind that will change both of their lives.
Restoration England is a time period that I have not read much about and it sent me looking to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of history. The author does a great job of creating the atmosphere of tension during that time. As an American, I tend to think of Quakers as being American. So, it was interesting to see them before they came to this country and the trouble the faced both in terms of their religion and their politics.
Alice was a character that I was drawn to right away. She loves plants. I love them, too! I was totally jealous of her summer house and I love botanical prints, so it was just wonderful to think of her painting there. To see Alice, who I was sure was the kind of person who is normally honest and caring do such a rash thing and suffer such terrible consequences was heartbreaking. There are some pretty nasty, selfish characters just lying in wait to tangle her in her own web of deceit. While some books make me dream that I had a housekeeper to take care of me, this book scared me right off that ridiculous notion! Overall, it had all of the things that I would hope for in a historical novel, great characters and a well-developed world, plus a good storyline, too. It made one turbulent plane ride much more enjoyable.
I was excited to see that Deborah Swift has another novel in the works that is a companion to The Lady’s Slipper called The Gilded Lily. While this next book centers around a character I would have hoped to never see again, I have to admit after I read the description, I changed my mind and I look forward to reading it.
Title: The Lady’s Slipper
Author: Deborah Swift
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
I Got My Copy From: The Library
Rating: Very Good