Book: The Ghost Orchid
Author: Carol Goodman
My apologies for not getting this out sooner - I finished it about two weeks ago and I immediately jumped into one of the two advanced readers I got from Penguin (anyone else in the First to Read program?). I finished one of the advanced readers and now I'm on the second one before I move on to the next book (my first book of poetry actually).
Anyway, back to the novel at hand. I loved this book. There is no other way to put it without sounding melodramatic. This is tied with Arcadia Falls for my favorite Carol Goodman novel, it is that good. The Ghost Orchid is the final early Goodman novel I've read and now I only have her new works to read. All of them seem to be thrillers of some kind so she's not straying too far away from her old novels, but I'll get more into that once I actually read one of her new ones.
As said in the summary, Ellis is a young writer working on her first novel. She has been accepted into the writer's retreat at Bosco, an old estate, and is writing a historical fiction novel for her first piece of serious work. She is joined by three other artists - a biographer, a fiction writer, a poet, and a landscape architect. As they spend more time together and Ellis digs more deeply into her source material, she finds that the truth isn't exactly what it seems to be and that the danger in the past may have bled into the present day.
This novel is really written beautifully. It's divided between what is happening to Ellis in the present and the past events she is using as the base of her novel. A warning though, which is, I must admit, a bit of a downside to the novel - if you put this book down for any length of time and come back to it later, you are in danger of having to go back to refresh your memory on what happened. There were times where I picked it up the following day and once I began, I had to double check what happened the last time I read. Goodman doesn't waste time with flashbacks and sentences reminding you of what happened. Everything is written sequentially. One chapter is Ellis's. The next chapter is the past. Then it's back to Ellis, etc. Every chapter picks up right where the last one left off so it encourages you to read it all in one sitting. It's something that, if my schedule allowed it, probably would have happened. I was sucked in almost immediately and I loved being in both the present and the past.
The novel has many great twists and subtle shifts of mood, genre, and theme. It starts out as simple fiction mixed with history, then it slowly bleeds into thriller and I would even say a touch of horror. I think this story would be fantastic to put on either the small screen or the big screen, although small screen might be better to give the story its proper due. The story has great vibes reminiscent of Jane Eyre, And Then There Were None, and Rebecca.
There is a small cast of characters in this novel and that's fine by me. I love novels that have small casts because then I feel like I can really connect with the characters in question. No one is purposeless in this story and you might start out thinking that a certain character doesn't have any value to the plot, but then Goodman shows you how wrong you are. Everyone is used well and I never thought anyone was used in a non-realistic way.
The only other negative point I would mention is the brief spot of romance in the present day timeline. Like always, Goodman writes her romances so that there are subtle and don't take over the story, but this one, I would have to admit, is too subtle. The final pairing is hinted enough, I suppose, throughout the course of the novel, but when it actually comes about, I feel like there wasn't enough shown for me to say, "Yes, that makes complete sense that they're together romantically." Perhaps it also depends on your definition of romance, but I have a feeling most wouldn't be satisfied with what Goodman provides.
Overall, with the fascinating characters, multi-layered plot, and great twists, I give The Ghost Orchid an A+.
Please support the author by buying the book or by borrowing it from a friend or your local library.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. I'm now going into the next set of books I've had waiting for me since 2015. Beware, I have a bunch of Nora Roberts coming up thanks to my former co-worker at Barnes & Noble.