I made a resolution quite a while ago to read (and hopefully review) one self-published e-book a month. This month my chosen read is Avril Joy's 'The Orchid House', with its luscious cover - positively inviting you to pick it up. Sadly on Kindle it comes up as black and white - but maybe soon Kindle will get its act together and discover full colour!
If you love romantic fiction with a darker undertow, gardening and garden history then the Orchid House will please you. There's a lot of (very good) sex in the book too - and it takes real talent to write about sex well. Gardening, when you think about it, is all about sex - breeding plants, fertilising seeds, earth, nurturing fruit and flower. I have to say that this is one of the most erotic novels I've read for a while. From the steamy tropical ambience of Sri Lanka to the hot-houses of Trescombe in England, the reader is treated to sensual prose unfolding a plot that is both tragic and compelling.
The heroine, 27 year old Roma, has just lost her lover, who drowned while body-surfing in rough seas off the coast of Sri Lanka. She returns to England, unable to move on with her life, until she takes up a project, illustrating the 19th century diary of the head gardener at Trescombe - a stately home in Cornwall. She begins to make a relationship with Will, the current head gardener, though neither of them seem able to commit to each other. He is curiously withdrawn, and his real passion is for rare orchids, the most beautiful and mysterious of plants, and he spends a great deal of his time in the hot-houses where they grow. But the orchid house conceals a terrible secret, and there has been another death by drowning ......
Into Roma's emotional twilight comes the sadistic Max, owner of Trescombe, and sexually irresistible to both men and women. The whole situation becomes explosive and the lives of Roma, Will and Trescombe itself are all put in jeopardy. But, of course, as a romance, all is healed in the end, the heroine gets the right hero and all is well. I really didn't know how it was all going to work out and was very happy with the way the story was concluded.
This is Avril Joy's second published book - the first was The Sweet Track, published by Flambard Press and very well received. The story of how it got into print and the reasons why she decided to publish her second novel herself are told on Avril's blog here. The Orchid House nearly made it to Headline and Bloomsbury. You have to ask yourself why they didn't take the plunge, since this is a very good read that's pleasing many people at the moment (8 four or five star reviews on amazon). Are publishers going mad at the moment? Or just lost in the new landscape of BookWorld? They do seem to be turning down some very good reads.
For me, there's only one little niggle - as with most Kindle books (even - alas - the top publishers) there are a few typos and formatting errors, but these are easy to overlook when the story is so good. What all e-published authors need is a good editing service at an affordable price - it's quite a different art to the usual kind of copy-editing. Having fallen foul of the conversion process myself, I'd be first in the queue to sign up!
Avril talks about her life as a writer in prison 'Twenty Five Years Behind Bars', and her writing, over on the Authors Electric Blogspot.