The Orchid Hunter

The Orchid Hunter

by Jill Marie Landis

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Overview

The Orchid Hunter by Jill Marie Landis

Can an English lady raised as a “wild orchid” ever be truly tamed?



When Trevor Mandeville leaves behind the drawing rooms of London and journeys to an island paradise in search of a rare orchid, he comes face-to-face with an even more shocking treasure. Stolen from her family at a young age, Joya Penn has spent most of her life running wild and free. Trevor tries to resist her charms, but soon finds himself captivated by the deliciously innocent—yet wildly seductive—young creature with eyes as blue as a mountain lake and blonde hair rippling down her back in an untamed mane.



Given her first taste of desire by the handsome adventurer, Joya believes all her dreams have come true when Trevor agrees to escort her back to London. But her uninhibited ways quickly throw his entire household—and his heart—into delightful chaos.



As Joya despairs of ever being the sort of “proper lady” Trevor could love, Trevor begins to wonder if he’s finally found the treasure he has been hunting for his entire life . . . in the forbidden paradise of Joya’s arms.



Jill Marie Landis is the New York Times bestselling author and seven-time Romance Writers of American Finalist for the RITA Award. Long known for her historical romances, Jill Marie Landis also now writes The Tiki Goddess Mysteries (set on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, where she lives with her husband, actor Steve Landis).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611947779
Publisher: BelleBooks
Publication date: 08/08/2017
Pages: 260
Sales rank: 848,872
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.59(d)

About the Author

Jill Marie Landis's novels have earned distinguished awards and slots on such national bestseller lists as the USA Today Top 50 and the New York Times. She is a seven-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America's RITA Award in Single Title Historical and Contemporary Romance as well as a Golden Heart and RITA Award winner.

Some of her recent releases include the Irish Angels Series, inspirational historical romance from Zondervan, and MAI TAI ONE ON, TWO TO MANGO, and THREE TO GET LEI'D, and TOO HOT FOUR HULA the first four titles in her hilarious "Tiki Goddess Mysteries" set in Hawaii. Her historical romances PAST PROMISES, UNTIL TOMORROW, JADE and THE ORCHID HUNTER are being released in e-book for the very first time in 2014.

Jill Marie resides in Hawaii with her husband. When she's not writing or sitting on the beach reading, she enjoys visiting with family and friends, raising orchids, working in her garden, occasionally quilting, but most of all dancing the hula.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

1850

JOYA PENN STOOD on the valley floor, staring up high mountain walls lush with vegetation, up into the cloud of mist that had settled upon the upper slopes of Kibatante. The mountain was inhabited by a great, hulking spirit of the same name who was the mountain and at the same time, was a god who existed within the volcanic, igneous rock.

As long as the spirit of Kibatante slept in the heart of the island, everyone knew that all would be well on Matarenga.

One of her sandals had come untied, so Joya bent down and quickly rewrapped the woven hemp thong around her ankle. As she straightened, she brushed a cockroach off of the coarse, yellowed fabric of her shin-length trousers.

Her shirt, a soiled castoff of her father's, was knotted at her midriff. She found the garment a nuisance, but the year that her breasts had developed, her parents had demanded she cover herself. She would prefer not to be burdened with so many clothes, but her father still insisted. She argued that Matarengi women felt no need to cover their upper bodies. Why should she? She was perfectly comfortable with or without clothing. Still, she bowed to her father's will.

Joya sighed, feeling adrift as she wiped perspiration from her brow with her forearm. Wishing that Kibatante's spirit would slip inside her heart and ease her unsettled feelings, she touched a pouch tied to a thong around her neck. The small leather sack was filled with goodluck charms that kept her safe. She opened the bag and looked at the objects inside — a feather, sharks' teeth, a shining piece of rock. The largest among them was her mother's silver hair comb, which she had pressed into Joya's hand on the day she died. She had begged Joya not to forget her. As if she ever could.

Eight Matarengi bearers, their skin glistening with sweat, were scattered over the hillside gathering moss and plant fibers used to pack around orchid specimens to be shipped to London. Joya had been in charge of leading the men today and the search had gone well. Tomorrow morning, the hunting party would start back over the mountain trail to the native village and the house that she and her father shared on the beach.

Even knowing that her life was full, she wished she could lose the heaviness that she carried in her heart. She had the breathtaking beauty of the island paradise and the lifelong friends she had made among the Matarengi people. She had the orchids that she and her father hunted, gathered, and packed. They were the loveliest of flowers, fragile in appearance, yet hardy enough to grow in the wild and even survive being shipped all over the world.

The work she shared with her father was fulfilling and, over time, she had recovered as much as a daughter ever can from the loss of her mother. Despite the fact that she was no man's wife, and the fact that she had seen little of the world, she realized that she was a very lucky young woman.

But ever since she had been a child, there had been a shadow of sadness haunting her, a notion that there was something vital, something she could not explain, missing from her life.

According to Matarengi custom, she should have been a bride long before now, but her white, English parents had strictly forbidden her ever marrying into the Matarengi tribe. She was to marry one of her own kind — something that had proved to be nearly impossible, for no suitable white man had ever come to the island for any length of time. Even if she chose to ignore her parents' dictates, there was not a single Matarengi male on the island, save Umbaba, her closest friend, who was even comfortable around her.

She was beginning to lose hope of ever leaving the island or marrying anyone. She wondered if there was anything in the least desirable about her by English standards. How would she ever find out, when leaving the island to search farther afield was something her father refused to allow?

Uncomfortable with the direction of her thoughts, she began to climb the mountainside, keeping to the trail the men had hacked out with huge, lethally sharp machetes. In the lower regions of the valley floor, where the sun rarely fought its way through the dense growth, the ground was perpetually damp. She took care not to fall, for her sandals were caked with mud and slippery. Occasionally she had to pause and chop away branches that intruded across the trail with her own blade.

She passed two of the men, stopping to direct three others to take rooted samples from various plants in a deep ravine on the mountainside. She took a specimen from one of the men, held it close, and examined the root structure. It was a fine orchid, a soft lavender-rose in color.

She wished she could accompany the next shipment of flowers to England, walk along the crowded streets and byways, see the River Thames. She longed to experience the sights and sounds she had only learned of from her parents' stories or seen in the prints in her books.

Whenever she closed her eyes and thought of London, somehow she easily imagined herself already there. Sometimes she would dream of England in vivid detail, scene upon scene, with such complete clarity that the images seemed very real.

Sometimes her dreams were haunting. Like Kibatante, the spirit of the mountain, it was as if she could be in two places — in the dream itself and outside of it, watching it unfold. She always dreamed of a girl, very much like herself, but not herself, in and about London.

Whenever she awoke from such a dream, it would take her a moment or two to realize she had actually been safe in her bed asleep and that she had never really left Matarenga.

The odd sensation of these dreams-within-dreams had begun when she was a child. More curious than frightened, she would tell her mother about the experience and ask for explanations her mother could not give.

Joya could still recall the way deep frown lines appeared upon her mother's brow whenever she tried to explain about the other girl who was her and yet was not her.

"Do not dwell on such things, child," her mother, Clara, would always say. "Dreams are only that. They aren't real." Then her lovely mother would smile, but the smile would never reach her eyes. Afterward, Joya would feel more confused than ever.

Eventually, she took up sketching, using bits of charcoal and odd pieces of paper, bark cloth, whatever she could find, as she wrestled with the images in an effort to understand. At first the drawings were only the scribbles of a child. As she grew, she amazed her parents with her skill, but they believed that the girl portrayed in the sketches was Joya herself.

Only she knew differently. The young woman in her drawings looked like her, but was definitely not her. She knew that as well as she knew the names of all the shimmering, rainbow-hued fish in the lagoon and the orchids on the hillsides. Drawing what she dreamed about sometimes left her feeling even more adrift than ever.

One day she had called upon Otakgi, the oldest, wisest man on Matarenga, the man her father called a witch doctor. From what little she knew of either, Otakgi was neither a witch nor a doctor. He was a man of magic, a healer, keeper of Matarengi legends and age-old tribal lore. Even when she had been a young girl with a head full of strange dreams and a heart full of questions, even then he had seemed ancient.

Otakgi's skin was blue-black, thin and wrinkled, as withered as the dried blossoms of the flame tree. His hair was tightly braided with colorful beads among the woven strands. He looked as old as the island itself, and it was whispered among the natives that he was almost as old as Kibatante, as timeless as the turquoise lagoon that surrounded Matarenga.

Alone, more frightened of her dreams than of the old man, she had slipped into the shadowy interior of his small fadu, a native dwelling made of coconut fronds and bamboo. He was seated crosslegged on a tightly woven mat of pandanus, staring through the open door, toward the reef and beyond.

She sat in silence and tried not to wiggle until he came out of his trance, looked over, and found her waiting.

"I have strange dreams, Otakgi. Dreams of myself and not myself. I am very confused." She spoke in Matarengi, a language she knew as well as, or better than, English.

She was forced to remain still, even though it was a while before he looked at her again. When he did, his eyes burned like hot black obsidian. He stared through her, as if she had no more substance than smoke. When he finally spoke, his voice reminded her of the rustling of the leaves when the Kusi trade winds blew gently over the land. He raised both hands, palms up. His long fingers, gnarled with age, lifted skyward.

"It will be many, many seasons yet before you know the meaning of these dreams. Do not be frightened, even if they seem strange, for one day you will find your other self. You will know the secret of this second spirit, the lost spirit of your soul."

When he paused, silent again, she was afraid that he would say no more, that she would be no wiser, no more satisfied than when she had entered the fadu.

But the old man eventually stirred. He hummed quietly to himself and rocked back and forth on his bare, bony buttocks.

"There is no need to fear," he had said, louder now, his voice firm, as if trying to impress her with the truth. "Be patient."

And so, as the years passed, she continued dreaming and drawing and trying to be patient. She locked her questions away rather than make her lovely mama frown. Her papa, who had always worked so hard exploring the uncharted interior of the island for new orchids, certainly had no time for questions.

She had endured until one day she discovered she was no longer a child, but a woman — and everything changed. She was no longer allowed to go half naked, like her Matarengi friends. Soon, none of the young men, save Umbaba, would speak directly to her. Slowly, she began to feel more and more isolated.

She went to her parents and begged them to take her to England, to let her experience life off of the island. Since she could not live a full life as a Matarengi, she wanted to live among her own kind for a while. They gently refused her outright, but then debated in hushed whispers behind their bedroom door.

Not long afterward, her mother died.

Months eased into years. She tried to lose herself, her questions, her needs, in her work with the orchids, but late at night, she was forced to battle her aching loneliness.

Perhaps, if she could get to London, she would not only find that part of her she felt was missing, but even meet a suitable man who would find her desirable, someone who would want her enough to marry her.

She had not argued with her father about leaving Matarenga in a good while, but today, almost as if the Kusi winds were charged with change, as if her skin no longer fit, Joya found herself thinking about what Otakgi had said to her so long ago: "One day you will find your other self." She was determined to leave the island. She would demand that her father make some arrangements to send her along when the boat came to pick up the orchids. She would make her demands when they returned home from the hunt.

Suddenly, the ground began to tremble. Her hand closed around the orchid plant as rocks began to tumble down the mountainside. She was grazed by flying gravel. The Matarengi became frightened. They shouted to each other, and to her, to take cover.

Kibatante was stirring. The god of the mountain, keeper of the island, was disturbed.

CHAPTER 2

I'LL BE DAMNED if I die now. Not when I'm so close.

Dangling high above the valley floor, Trevor Mandeville clung with bare, muddied hands to the twisted, exposed root of a jacaranda tree. The gnarled root was his lifeline, his only hope.

He cursed and prayed that it would hold his weight until he was safe on solid ground, until the idea that he could fail became a memory and the reality that he was mortal had faded back into his subconscious.

The muscles in his back and arms screamed as he strained to save himself. A heavy pack on his back weighed him down. His rifle swayed from the strap over his shoulder and slapped him in the side. His face was inches from the scarred, loose earth of the mountainside.

He spat at the dirt, cursed fate, then himself, and even Dustin Penn, the man he had journeyed halfway around the world to find. He closed his eyes, imagined staring Death in the face. Skeletal, hollow-eyed, the Grim Reaper tempted him to ease the muscles burning in his arms and shoulders.

"Let go," Death whispered, urging him to give up, to feel the cool wind rush past him as he floated through the abyss, down, down through the tangled canopy of treetops that hid the valley floor.

He was raised never to leave a job unfinished, never to walk away from responsibility. His sister, Janelle, had accompanied him to Africa. She was awaiting him off the mainland coast, on Zanzibar. He refused to abandon her on foreign soil.

So Trevor clung tighter, strained harder. Pulling himself up hand over hand, he fought for a toehold in the crumbling earth. Death was something he would not even consider in this instance, for death meant failure. He always did everything in his power to avoid failure.

An hour ago, as he was hiking a barely discernible jungle trail no wider than his shoulders, a cloud of heavy gray mist had taken him by surprise. Fog settled in, camouflaging the landscape. Thick as rain, it rendered the trail dangerously slick.

Around midday he had stripped off his sweat-soaked shirt and shoved it into the top of his pack, and so when he fell, his skin was scraped by the rough stones embedded in the mountainside. Now his bare chest, scratched and bleeding, stung.

Sweat mingled with dampness from the fog trickled down his spine. His knee-high leather gaiters were covered with trail mud, their crossed laces caked with it. His khaki pants were filthy and torn, the toes of his leather shoes scratched from kicking the mountainside.

In the heavy mist, looming palms and acacia trees around him became hulking dark shapes. Their leaves swayed with the rhythm of the trade wind. Green parrots dived and squawked, taunting him. Howler monkeys screamed with the shrill sound of demented laughter.

Again, Death whispered in his ear, "Just let go."

A coarse sound burst from Trevor's throat, one that might have sounded like a laugh, but was really a shout of defiance. It echoed against the face of the mountain and carried to the treetops.

Failure was not an option. The jungles of the world were already littered with the bones of hapless Englishmen who had lost their lives for their orchid-crazed patrons. Hunters had drowned, been lost or murdered, or fallen to their deaths — men who loved to gamble, men of adventure willing to die while searching for beautiful flowers in terrible places, to discover rare, exotic plants that would grace some wealthy aristocrat's home.

Sweat slipped into his eyes and made him blink. He tightened his grip. Hand over hand, Trevor heaved himself upward, using the rough, twisted root to bring him even with the raw, broken edge of the trail. Gritting his teeth, he swung side to side like a pendulum until he dared to let go and grab for a place to land.

He hit the edge and clung. Before he started to slip again, he quickly scooted his upper body along with his elbows and forearms, grunting with effort as he dragged himself along, kicking with his legs. Soon he propelled himself to a secure patch of smooth, level ground.

Not until he drew his legs up and crawled a few feet away from the precipice did he allow himself to breathe. His heartbeat was ragged and wild.

A pair of noisy red-beaked parrots swooped down for a closer look. Beneath him, the earth trembled again, but gently this time, as if settling into place.

His hands shook. He took off his sun helmet, wiped his brow with his forearm, replaced the headgear, and then adjusted the rifle strap. Unfastening the canteen at his waist, he took a long pull of water. As his breath settled into an even cadence, Trevor scanned the sky and tried to see the sun through the tangle of branches and leaves that canopied the trail.

There was no indication it might burn through the fog before nightfall. If he did not start walking again soon, darkness would catch him on the side of the mountain and he would be forced to either bed down there or crawl along the narrow path on hands and knees, feeling his way out.

Pushing himself to his feet, he ignored the swell of weakness in his legs. Resettling his rifle strap, he took note of the superficial scratches on his chest and arms. His right cheek stung. He touched it and his fingers came away smeared with blood.

Starting out again, he concentrated on the trail, searching for any sign of weakness in the earth. Around the bend, where the mountainside was less eroded, he came upon crude steps set into the downhill slope. Flat rocks had been buried in the earth to form stepping-stones. He experienced a surge of relief when hiking became easier.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Orchid Hunter"
by .
Copyright © 2000 Jill Marie Landis.
Excerpted by permission of BelleBooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Orchid Hunter 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My first book by Jill Landis and I loved it. She wasn't raised as a Lady and is different from anything he has ever seen but he couldn't help but fall in love!!! There are a few twists and turns and paternity issues but this is a wonderful read!!
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1850 Joya Penn loves living on Matarenga but it sometimes gets very lonely being the only white woman on the African island. Though she is for the most part content with her life, Joya feels a deep need to go to England, the home of her parents. She feels that part of her, the girl she always draws pictures of, resides in England. However, Joya feels her chances of going to the land of her ancestors is remote. It is even less likely that she will be marrying anyone since most of the islanders feel uncomfortable around her and her father would forbid it anyway.

Everything changes when Trevor Mandeville arrives on the island seeking the perfect orchid for Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. He realizes that Joya is the lost twin if his adopted sister. Joya accompanies Trevor back to England where she is joyfully united with her sibling. Joya falls in love with Trevor. However, he is a stickler to convention, but the only conventions she knows are African not English. Unless love finds a way, this culture-crossed duo is doomed to a lifetime of unhappiness.

Jill Marie Landis paints two wonderful landscapes as a part of mid nineteenth century Africa and England vividly come to life in THE ORCHID HUNTER. The entertaining and often humorous story line features two notable lead characters, but clearly the tale belongs to the joyous Joya whose uninhibited nature takes Victorian London by storm, sending the ¿White Man¿s Burden¿ into clear disarray. The secondary romance starring Joya¿s sister adds to the overall fun. Ms. Landis has scripted a sensual storyline filled with vibrancy. This author creates some of the best historical romance writers¿ on the market today.

Harriet Klausner