|Jill Marie Landis: The Orchid Hunter|
(Paperback), ISBN 0-515-12768-X
World-renowned orchid hunter Dustin Penn raised Joya as his own child. And like any loving child, Joya absorbed his skills and his passion for the wondrous orchids of tropical Matarenga island as readily as a sponge. But Penn's affection for Joya masks a terrible deception. Penn's wife Clara kidnapped the infant Joya and her twin sister Janelle from their botanist father. Clara sent Janelle to the wealthy Mandeville family, then escaped with Joya and Dustin to Matarenga.
On an expedition to find Dustin Penn, Trevor Mandeville (birth son of Janelle's adoptive family) uncovers more than the rare orchids he treasures. Struck by Joya's astounding resemblance to Janelle, Trevor reunites the twins and fulfills Joya's dream of returning to England. All the while, Trevor hides a secret of his own -- his growing attraction to Joya.
In London, however, Joya's dreams turn into nightmares. She becomes the enemy of Trevor's powerful grandmother, Adelaide. Adelaide nourishes aristocratic ambitions for her grandson Trevor that do not include a misalliance with the free-spirited and far too "natural" Joya. Adelaide worked too hard to save Mandeville Imports from her son's mismanagement to allow her grandson to throw it all away for an unsuitable chit fresh off the boat from Africa. Adelaide will stop at nothing to discourage Trevor's suit and discredit Joya.
But Janelle sits squarely in her sister's corner. She wants Janelle and Trevor to discover their happily ever after, though Janelle suspects their path will be fraught with perils no less treacherous than those of the Matarenga jungles. London society, for example.
While providing some amusing moments in the book, Joya's social lapses and naivete with respect to 19th century mores sometimes proved irritating. How could an intelligent woman act that ingenuous, especially in conversation with Queen Victoria? However, like a true romantic hero, Trevor always arrives just in time to rescue Joya from her latest social peril.
Fortunately for the reader, Trevor does not manage to lessen the chaos the uninhibited Joya wreaks on the strait-laced atmosphere of Mandeville House. The havoc aids Janelle in her efforts to launch her career as a painter and sets up an entertaining secondary romance between Janelle and charming ne'er-do-well Garr Remington. A penniless rake out to marry for money, Garr challenges Janelle's desires to remain a free-thinking, independent artist.
The Orchid Hunter supplies some fascinating glimpses into the rarefied world of orchid hunting. The novel travels from the African rain forests to the elegant drawing rooms of Victorian London. Along the journey, come some laughter, some intrigue and plenty of romance.
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