"1660. King Charles II has returned from exile, but memories of the English Civil War still rankle. There are old scores to settle, and religious differences threaten to overturn a fragile peace. When Alice Ibbetson discovers a rare orchid, the Lady’s Slipper, growing in a wood belonging to Richard Wheeler, she is captivated by its beauty— though Wheeler, a Quaker, is determined to keep the flower where God intended it to grow. Knowing that the orchid is the last of its kind, she steals the flower, little dreaming that her seemingly simple act will set off a chain of events that will lead to murder and exile, and change her life forever…"
Tragedy follows Alice Ibbetson. She grieves the death of her parents, but also the death of her beloved sister Flora. Add to that an unhappy marriage, and Alice seeks to escape her sadness by immersing herself in her art and her passion for nature.
On the property of Richard Wheeler, a Quaker, she discovers a rare Lady’s Slipper orchid. She yearns to preserve and harvest its seeks in addition to painting it. One night, under the cloak of darkness, she steals the plant and hides it in the summerhouse of her home.
Her act brings a rash of misfortunes upon her – not only Wheeler’s anger, but the desire of George Fisk, local overlord, who is desperate to use it to make a healing tincture for his skin ailment. Soon, all are put at risk.
The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift is Women's Fiction at its best. In this debut novel, the author has written an enchanting tale of historical fiction. The prose was lovely to read and the author’s attention to detail made every page vivid. Plenty of introspection by the heroine endeared her to me. I was struck by this novel’s creativity. To write an entire story around a simple, but rare, flower, and fill the tale with treacherous characters, impossible situations, and plenty of conflict, is quite a feat, and Deborah Swift pulls it off seamlessly.
Although the love relationship between Wheeler and Alice was slow to start, it did work very well at the end to provide a satisfying conclusion. What I enjoyed most about this novel was the clarity of the story and its vibrant descriptions that pulled me into the story and made me feel as if I were witnessing the scenery first hand. This is definitely a new author to watch and already, I’m awaiting her next novel, The Gilded Lilly.