Meet my main character - Flora McPhairson from The Lost Orchid

Good morning to you. This week’s post is a little different. It’s all part of the Meet My Main Character historical fiction writers’ blog hop. I've been tagged by the multi-talented Nancy Jardine, who writes thrilling historical romantic adventure and engaging contemporary romantic fiction. Her novels have been published by The Wild Rose Press and Crooked Cat. Her newest main character, the intriguing Aran Bruce, is spotlighted here.

I thought I’d introduce the lead character from the The Lost Orchid, a Gothic-inspired mystery set at the height of orchid fever in the late 19th century. Botanical history has always fascinated me, especially the crazy exploits of Scottish plant collectors, whose intrepid expeditions defy belief. It was such an intriguing subject, that the research nearly took over, but the book is now out, thanks to Bluewood Publishing, in print and digital.

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Let me introduce the young heroine ... Flora McPhairson. She is fiction, although the uncle to whom she turns in a moment of dire need, John ‘Mac’ Telfer McPhairson, is inspired by an extraordinary hybridist called John Dominy. In fact, ‘Mac’ is rather a hybrid himself. In the story, he is a veteran plant collector, one of the many bold Scots who scoured the Empire for rare breeds to satisfy the botanical cravings of society. 

He retires from the field and sets up a plant nursery. This is where fact and fiction merge, for his business in leafy Warwickshire, is based on the life work of John Dominy, a mild-mannered horticultural wizard employed by the Veitch family (famous for their seeds, if the name rings a bell). He pioneered a way to hybridise orchids, not only saving many species from extinction, but opening up the world of orchids to every class.
2) When and where is the story set?

I do tire of London-centric stories, I have to admit, and always relish new tales set in different locales, familiar or otherwise. When I was researching ‘orchidelirium’, the society passion for orchids that prevailed in the mid- to late 1880s, I chose 1885, for that was when things in the hothouses were really hotting up. As for the location, I was walking my dogs at Guy’s Cliffe, a well-known beauty spot overlooked by a ruined 18th-century mansion, and was struck by its haunting atmosphere. And when I say haunting, yes, there are stories of several ghosts who make an appearance from time to time. All the other settings are based on where I live (and walk the dogs, of course!), including Kenilworth, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Leek Wootton and Stoneleigh.

3) What should we know about him/her?
Flora is an intelligent, forward-thinking young woman who made one bad mistake and teeters on social disgrace. Rescued by her uncle, she reinvents herself and becomes an even more determined character. As events progress, she realises she has much more to offer society than simply working in an flower shop.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
At first, we think it’s Flora’s struggle to get her life in order, but it soon emerges that her beloved uncle’s business is in jeopardy. His orchid nursery has become the object of a mysterious dirty tricks campaign. His professional reputation is at stake – and their livelihood. It becomes a hotbed of intrigue, with evil lurking in every shrubbery. As things turn sinister, she is obliged to seek assistance from the dashing, but ambiguous, William Carter, a newspaper reporter, who is investigating the story. They are drawn to one another and work well together, despite their clashing temperaments.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?
Initially, Flora struggles to find her way after being seduced and abandoned. However, as she becomes reacquainted with her uncle, grateful for the sanctuary he offers, she realises she is not alone. She turns her not inconsiderable talent into rescuing him in return, with little thought to her own safety.

6) Can we read more about it?
There’s a small website based on the The Lost Orchid, with stories about mad orchid hunters, orchid fanatics (including Charles Darwin) and more about the Warwickshire locations.

Truth be told, I became addicted to orchids myself and set up Orchidmania, a blog about the astonishing history and culture of this species. I post about once a week – and some of the stories beggar belief.

7) Where can we get a copy?
The Lost Orchid is released by Bluewood Publishing, and is available in print and digital on Amazon and Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Apple and most other e-book or online stores.

And now it’s my turn to tag for next Monday, 16 June
I have two very different names and historical settings to whet your palate.

First is fellow Crooked Cat writer Tim Taylor, whose novel, Zeus of Ithome is a stunning historical novel, weaving the lives of fictional characters around real events – in this case, the struggle of the ancient Messenian people to free themselves from three centuries of slavery under the Spartans. 

I’m going Transatlantic for my next tag. I’d like to pass the second baton to Bluewood writer Dale Day, author of a sweeping historical saga of Father Serra and the founding of California. Dale is a man for research and he’s visited all the sites mentioned in the first of the series, 'The Sailor and Carpenter' as well as all 21 missions in California.

By Pamela Kelt


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