The Orchard is a fictional romance set in the Flathead Valley of Montana, an area I know through summer vacations spent there. One of my favorite but lesser known novels, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, inspired the basic plot line, but my attempt is to tell the story behind Miss Austen’s characters, and adapt it to modern life, weaving elements of the gospel throughout.
The book is a romance novel and is intended for that audience of young adult and adult women, though my husband loves it, too.
Gospel elements in the book include missionary work, trials, sacrifice and attained blessings, choices, healing blessings, love, spirit and earthly family, prayer, and the influence of the Holy Ghost.
The first half of the book is written in answer to questions I asked myself about how the characters could have gotten themselves into the places they were when Jane Austen’s novel picks up. The reader does not need to be familiar with Persuasion to understand and appreciate The Orchard, though some subtle references are made with respect and a little humor. The second half of the book takes those characters and intertwines them into Miss Austen’s plot.
After the sudden death of her mother, Alisen Embry finds comfort and purpose working the cherry orchard adjoining her family's home on Flathead Lake. When she meets Derick, a boy with dreams and spirit, she realizes his answers fill a void in her life she did not know she had. Their connection is threatened by the prejudices of her father, and just when Alisen thinks she has found everything that could make her happy, she is given choices testing her love, and loyalty.
Derick Whitney is a compulsive returned missionary with his future mapped out, and beautiful Alisen quickly seals her place in those plans, and his heart, with her endless questions and obvious desire for the truth. But when his plans are ripped apart, he buries the whispers of wisdom and direction in bitterness and blame.
One letter and many decisions bring these two lost spirits to face the choices they have made, and learn that losing themselves may be the only way they find home.