The Forbidden Orchid - Sharon Biggs Waller

This had everything I could want in a book!

This story takes place in 1861--the year after the "Opium Wars" had finally ended between England and China.

Elodie is the eldest of ten sisters who's father is a plant hunter, spending most of his time in exotic locations and then showing up yearly to make another baby before heading out again. Things go wrong on his last journey and he is unable to find orchids promised to a very rich client which could cause the family to end up in the workhouse. Mom has also had complications from a pregnancy causing the local physician to give her Dr J. Collis Browne's Chlorodyne which only makes her worse. Elodie is rightfully suspicious of the treatment and discovers later on this medicine is opium.

With the only way to take care of the debt owed being a return trip to try once again to find the orchids her father was unable to get on his last journey and her father unable to make the trip alone due to circumstances involving his last journey, Elodie shows away on the boat to China. Her discovery halfway through the journey changes not only her life but the life of sailor Alex Balasov, who helps her out. To say more would spoil the story.

In this story we have a heroine who goes from being the put upon dutiful daughter to woman who has found her place in the world and is going to claim it, even if it doesn't conform to what society expects of her. A very powerful and positive message!

I loved this book and would highly recommend it!!