As a child, concert pianist Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the grand estate reminiscent of Downton Abbey 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 this tranquil place.
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 the estate. Their search takes them back to the s when Harry, a former heir to Wharton Park, married his young society bride, Olivia, on the eve of World War II.
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When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt for generations to come. Filled with twists and turns, passions and lies, and ultimately redemption, The Orchid House is a beautiful, romantic, and poignant novel. Her books have sold twenty million copies in thirty-five languages globally. She was born in Ireland and divides her time between England and West Cork with her husband and four children.
Visit her online at LucindaRiley. Read an Excerpt Elsie nodded. The whole place was so alive, buzzing with the Crawford family and their friends. They had house parties almost every week in the shooting season. And one weekend, some friends of theirs came up from London, and I was put in charge of looking after their eighteen-year-old daughter, one Olivia Drew-Norris.
The Orchid Thief vs. Adaptation
Lord Crawford was the first over to her. My, my, how that Indian sun nurtures buds into full bloom. He answered with an equally discreet nod back. Now, let me introduce you to my wife. She was indisposed this afternoon, but seems to have recovered for this evening. Perhaps you can give her a few tips. Although mature, in her early forties at least, Adrienne had the body of a slim young girl.
And a beautifully sculpted face, with high, chiseled cheekbones underneath a flawless, ivory skin. Her quintessential femininity reminded Olivia more of a delicate Indian maharani, rather than the usual female English aristocrat, built as they were to withstand the harshness of the British weather, with wide hips to engender the brood of children they needed to continue the family line. Adrienne was so elegant, so fragile, Olivia felt she would be more suited to a salon in Paris than a drafty English country house.
Judging by the way she wore what was a simple black cocktail dress, adorned only with a string of creamy pearls, she had the effortless chic of her native land. You are the same. I can read how much you miss India in your eyes. He is of your age and will keep you company while I play the hostess parfaite.
The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley | | Booktopia
She was, on such occasions, used to only making small talk, never delving below the surface to discover more. Any form of inner thoughts—or worse, emotions—was frowned upon by British society.
That much she had learned from the club in Poona. Her conversation with Adrienne, albeit short, had comforted her. She allowed herself a secret smile. Dutifully, he made his way toward her across the room. A few paces away from her, he saw her lips open wide as she smiled. Her cool, blonde beauty was suddenly animated, filled with a radiance beneath her creamy skin.
Harry, not usually particularly aware of the physical charms of women, realized she was what most of his fellow officers would term a stunner. He approached her. But I assure you, it will be my pleasure. Harry had garnered the best physical qualities of both his parents; he had the height of his father and the fine bone structure and luminous brown eyes of his mother. You are, at least, under the age of seventy, which always helps. And, to be frank, around these parts, pretty unusual. Do you not realize that war is coming to these fair isles and we must all make some sacrifices?
Rather unusual in a young lady. As a matter of fact, I find it extremely refreshing. A bluestocking in the family?! But do try not to be too downhearted. I believe there are changes coming, especially for women. And perhaps the only advantage of the prospect of war is that it will alter the status quo even further. And what of you? The world may be coming to an end, but in houses such as these, everything goes on as it always has done. And in some respects, I thank God for it. By the way, mind the shot in the pheasant. She risked the odd glance down the table at Harry, who she could see was doing his duty too, entertaining the wife of the army major.
Later, as the men retired to the library and the women to the drawing room for coffee, Olivia feigned tiredness and excused herself. Adrienne appeared by her side just as she was mounting the stairs. Olivia shook her head. I will ask Elsie to relight your fire and bring you some cocoa, and we will see you tomorrow. Perhaps you will take a walk with me in the garden and I can show you something that might remind you of home. You enjoyed speaking to my son, Harry?
Adrienne nodded approvingly. Hoping to observe some of this plant sex, the photographer Christian Ziegler and I recently journeyed to one of those remote Mediterranean mountains in search of one of the most ingenious and diabolical of these orchids: the Ophrys , or, as it is sometimes called, the bee orchid. Some botanists, less politely, call it the prostitute orchid. I'd been eager to lay eyes on this orchid and meet its hapless pollinator ever since reading about its reproductive strategy, which involves what my field guide called "sexual deception" and "pseudocopulation.
In the case of this particular Ophrys , that animal is a relative of the bumblebee. The orchid offers the bee no nectar reward or pollen meal; rather, it seduces the male bee with the promise of bee sex, then ensures its pollination by frustrating the desire it has excited. The orchid accomplishes its sexual deception by mimicking the appearance, scent, and even tactile experience of a female bee.
The flower, in other words, traffics in something very much like metaphor: this stands for that. Not bad for a vegetable. Orchid hunting sounds arduous, and in many places it is, but in the mountains of Sardinia Ophrys orchids grow like roadside weeds. Though they're only 8ins or so high, when they bloom in April you can spot them from a moving car. Even close up, the lower lip, or labellum, of these diminutive orchids bears an uncanny resemblance to a female bee as viewed from behind.
This pseudobee, which in some Ophrys species comes complete with fake fur and what appear to be folded iridescent wings, looks as though she has her head buried in a green flower formed by the actual flower's sepals. To reinforce the deception, the orchid gives off a scent that, though imperceptible to us, has been shown to closely match the pheromones of the female bee. It works like this. The male bee alights on the bee-like labellum and attempts to mate, or, in the words of one botanical reference, begins "performing movements which look like an abnormally vigorous and prolonged attempt at copulation".
In the midst of these fruitless exertions, the bee jostles the orchid's column a structure unique to orchids that houses both male and female sexual organs and two yellow sacs packed with pollen called the pollinia, another structure unique to orchids are stuck to his back with a quick-drying glue-like substance. Frustration mounts until eventually it dawns on the bee that he has been had. He abruptly flies off, pollinia firmly attached, in frantic search of more authentic female companionship.
There was something poignant about the solitary bee I spotted, flying around madly with what looked like a chubby pair of yellow oxygen tanks strapped to his back. He'd been deluded by the promise of sex — bee sex — when in fact all that was really on offer was plant sex.
Botanists have been known to refer to pollen-carrying bees as "flying penises," but of course most of the world's bees perform that role unwittingly, with food rather than sex on the brain. Not so for the poor, deluded orchid bee. In fact, the sexual frustration of the bee turns out to be an essential part of the orchid's reproductive strategy, which is to favour mixing one's genes with distant mates.
Preferable, since inbreeding decreases fitness. When a bee has been discombobulated by sexual frustration, it's much less likely to mate with a flower on the same or nearby plant. Determined not to make the same mistake again, the bee travels some distance and, if things work out for the orchid, ends up pseudocopulating and leaving his package of pollen with another orchid. That distant orchid is likely to look and smell ever so slightly different from the first, and some botanists believe these subtle variations from plant to plant are part of the orchid's strategy to prevent bees from learning not to fall for the same flower twice.
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Think of it: the very imperfection of the orchid's mimicry may itself be part of the perfection of its reproductive strategy. The pollination strategy of the Ophrys is, like that of so many orchids, ingenious, intricate, wily, and seemingly improbable — so much so that proponents of intelligent design sometimes point to orchids as proof that the hand of higher intelligence must be at work in nature.
The Mystery of the Three Orchids
Though some orchids offer conventional food rewards to the insects and birds that carry their pollen from plant to plant, roughly a third of orchid species figured out long ago — unconsciously, of course —that they can save on the expense of nectar and increase the odds of outcrossing by evolving instead a clever deceit, whether that ruse be visual, aromatic, tactile, or, in the case of the bee orchid, all three at once.
The deception and exploitation of animals has become something of an orchid family speciality. There are orchids in the genus Orchis that lure pollinators with the promise of food by mimicking the appearance of nectar-producing flowers, or, in the case of fly-pollinated Dracula orchids, by producing an array of nasty scents running the scales of putrefaction, from fungus and rotten meat to cat urine.
Believe me, I've sniffed them. Other orchids, such as the Serapias , promise shelter by deploying floral forms that mimic protective insect burrows or brood rooms.
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