Hothouse Flower

Hothouse Flower Cover

Lucinda Riley

This is a heart-rending page turner which sweeps from war-torn Europe to Thailand and back again ...As a child Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park estate, where her grandfather tended the exotic flowers. So when a family tragedy strikes, Julia returns to the tranquility of Wharton Park and its hothouse. Recently inherited by charismatic Kit Crawford, the estate is undergoing renovation. This leads to the discovery of an old diary, prompting the pair to seek out Julia's grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park. Julia is taken back to the 1940s where the fortunes of young couple Olivia and Harry Crawford will have terrible consequences on generations to come. For as war breaks out Olivia and Harry are cruelly separated...


This debut novel is a real saga, describing the secret history of an ancient Norfolk stately home, and the chequered, shady pasts of its most recent inhabitants, which has led to the gradual decay of the fortunes of the great Wharton Park estate.

Our heroine is Julia Forrester, a world-acclaimed concert pianist, who has just lost her husband and little boy in an horrific car crash. They had been living in France; now she returns to her childhood roots in Norfolk to grieve alone.

But once back in close proximity to Wharton Park, where her grandfather worked as head gardener, she meets Kit Crawford, the young man who has inherited the title, and the estate. Now forced to sell the grand house and land because the estate is so heavily in debt, he renovates the old cottage once lived in by Julia’s grandparents, as a humble place to stay. But there he finds a secret diary; thinking it was written by Julia’s grandfather, he gives it to her.

But what is revealed in the diary is earth-shattering. It takes Julia, and the reader, back in time to the story of Harry and Olivia Crawford, a young couple who once seemed so in love, but whose marriage was torn apart by the Second World War.

Harry, it’s revealed, had a secret life in Thailand; and the exotic blooms, the rare and delicate orchids for which the Wharton greenhouse is famed, and which Julia’s grandfather devoted his life to nurturing, assume a new, darker meaning.


What really fascinates me about this novel is the account of how a standard upper-class English marriage, especially one in which property, inheritance, and the responsibility of looking after an historic estate on which the livelihoods of hundreds of local people depend, could be almost instantly shattered by the terrible reality of war.

Young Lord Harry Crawford is married to the beautiful Olivia, who is expecting his child. But he finds his life turned upside down when he is incarcerated in a Japanese POW camp. When he is released, starved and weak from fever, he spends weeks recovering in Bangkok. Slowly he realises he no longer wants to go home to assume his huge responsibilities in Norfolk.

Instead he stays in Thailand, surrounded by the exotic hothouse flowers he adores. He falls in love with a young Thai girl.

What follows leads to the disintegration of a family inheritance, and enormous emotional pain.

As for Julia, our concert pianist heroine, she is about to find her own life shattered once more - but then rebuilt in an astonishing way. On the horizon for her is new love, the rediscovery of an amazing inheritance, and an awful twist in her story as she finds out what really happened in the car crash that killed her husband and son.

Judy says this is a saga; and it certainly is, with more twists and turns, more shocking family secrets exposed, than I can remember reading. Maybe the Forsyte Saga comes to mind; this book certainly covers almost as much ground in fewer pages.

Lucinda Riley meets Richard and Judy

Reviews & Comments

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  • I love a good book and Hot House Flower certainly does not disappoint. I am always drawn to a book by its cover and then I read whats on the back.

    The main part of the story is set in Norfolk which is where I am from and so to read about familiar places described so accuratley is wonderful. I literally buried myself between the covers and could see the characters living before my eyes. Also visited are France and Thailand which I have not been lucky enough to visit, but the author transports you to a time and place with great ease and although I don't know the areas, I can certainly envisage the different colours, cultures, smells etc.

    It is a book similar to that of House of Riveton and Forgotten Garden where the reader is transported back in time and told of unearthed secrets. They will keep you guessing that is for sure, right until the end.

    The characters are told with such love you would think the author knew them! I certainly fell in love with Kit - if only he existed!

    if you are a fan of the House of Riveton, Forgotten Garden and even if you thoroughly enjoyed Downton Abbey recently on ITV, you will love this. A great Christmas present, I know who I'm giving this too....


  • I've yet to read this book but got stopped by another customer in WH Smiths today and told to buy it. She said she couldn't put it down and neither could a friend. Can't wait to try it myself!


  • After a long period when I've been unable to finish a novel I've struck gold with 'Hothouse Flower'.

    I found this book very hard to put down: lots of twists and turns and although I can't say it's unpredictable, I didn't mind the clues that hint at the novel's denouement.

    It's a novel that truly transports you to another world, a saga that flits between WW2 and the present day, idyllic Norfolk and exotic Thailand. It offers both elements of mystery and romance and appeals to the reader on different levels. I found the prose overblown at times, especially in the more emotional passages (I cringed despite myself) but if you're looking for a story with drama and intigue you can't go far wrong. It's perfect escapism.


  • I got this book for christmas and I didnt really think it was my thing but now I know its on your list Im gonna read it! Thanks

    Wendy Harrison

  • Absolutely stunning in the description of Thailand, Norfolk and Ramatuelle, places I am also familiar with...I felt so much for the sweet character of Lydia and her trust in unconditional love. A grippling read and the synopsis of a great film for the future. Bravo!

    Helene MacKenzie

  • Just received this book via the readitswapit website. Can't wait to start it.. have enjoyed other recommendations from R&J so I hope this is just as good. Keep up the good work.

    Jane Craft

  • After reading and loving Forgotten Garden & House At Riverton, I picked this book up because the cover was similar and I have been completely drawn in. A real page turner and impossible to put down. It is a must read and will not disappoint.

    Charlotte Pacey

  • I have followed the selections provided by the Richard and Judy Book Club since the beginning. I notice that this recent list is more 'literary' than it has ever been before. It was a surprise, therefore, to see 'Hothouse Flower' included; Lucinda Riley's novel seems to have appeared out of the blue. I read the novel and finished it in a couple of evenings. For me, this was the most pleasant surprise I have had in a while. The story itself is wonderfully emotive, the prose is beautifully crafted, and I found myself lost in the enchanting world Riley has created. Echoes from the past are woven seamlessly into the setting of contemporary England, making for a fascinating and enticing read. Aside from the enthralling plot, many of the moral issues and literary binaries within the novel are accessible and relevant; none more so than the conflicting loyalties that Harry Crawford struggles with, which certainly ring true for every generation. What is so wonderfully rare about this novel is the splicing of appealing, accessible commercial fiction, and the more complex literary subjects the novel deals with. While I finished the novel in a short time, I felt as though I had read a 'Gatsby', or a 'Revolutionary Road'. Congratulations to the author. I hope to see more from her soon, and, from her website and Twitter account, it looks like we will. (

    John Givings

  • I absolutely loved this, it's a cracking page-turner that also oozes class! I'm so glad in general that this type of good old-fashioned story-telling seems to be making a comeback in contemporary fiction - and this book is a wonderful example of the genre at its best. Superb descriptive narrative, engaging characters, gripping and original plot, gorgeous settings and engrossing individual storylines, all cleverly tied together with a coherent central thread. It's brimming with history, drama, romance and intrigue, definitely one of my favoruite recent books - I've been recommending it to all my friends, so I was of course totally thrilled to discover that R&J agreed with my sentiments!


  • Where to start in describing this book and ‘selling’ the story to other potential readers without giving away the whole wonderfully constructed plot?

    Julia has suffered an immense tragedy in her life and has returned to a cottage she owns in Norfolk, not far from Wharton Park where she spent many happy childhood hours with her grandparents Bill and Elsie who worked on the estate. Bill was the estate gardener and looked after the Hothouse where he grew, nurtured and flourished the many rare orchids. Elsie was a maid up at the ‘big house’ and remembers what the estate and house used to be like, and the family that lived there.

    Kit Crawford is the new Lord Wharton and is trying to rescue the house and estate, but knows because of years of neglect from previous related owners including his father that it looks like he is going to have to sell it with the proviso he can move into the old gardener’s cottage. When he starts to redevelopment the cottage, a diary is found and the circle of Julia’s life and Kits suddenly collide and there is another story to discover from the Second World War As readers we learn about how the past and the future of Kit, Julia and inevitably Wharton Park are inextricably linked forever.

    This is a strong book, with a fairly complex plot and a number of characters but Lucinda Riley weaves a tale that makes it easy to follow and completely absorbing. I found myself wanting to read it any spare minute I had, just to get to the next bit. It effectively jumps from the present day back to the events of the war and afterwards. Additionally scattered throughout the book is the thoughts and reflections of Julia. This is all done with ease and very obvious to the reader without having to look back through pages. The locations are dealt with from Norfolk, Thailand, and France where the scenery and atmosphere is described with evocative details that you can feel the heat of Thailand and smell the flowers as much as the wind that whistles through the cottage in Norfolk where Julia seeks solace.

    Other reviews have mentioned Kate Morton’s novels, and there is no doubt in my opinion that this is as good as any Morton novel. I suspect that this novel will be successful because of the sudden resurgent interest (Downton Abbey & Upstairs Downstairs through the medium of television) in all things of the past. In the big house and in the homes, the characters from the higher echelons of society as well as the servants who look after them. The key to these books and I know is something I find most attractive in novels is the present of the concept of the ‘big house’. To me it advocates what has been, what could have been if society had not been changed and where everything was structured and in its own order apart from perhaps in this book – love? The ‘big house’ is a character within its own right and I fall in love with the fact that when reading such books, I can transport myself to being lady of the house floating from one room to another or the maid cleaning one room and then another. Hothouse Flower has all these ideas and concepts by the page.

    A hot read for 2011.

    Joanne D'Arcy

  • If you are looking for a great read then the this book is for you. Thoroughly enjoyed the story line with its twists and turns


  • This has got to be one of the best books I have read in a long time. The duel narrative makes it fascinating, and in my opinion, it is accessible to most age groups. I am 20, and would have enjoyed this when I was 15, but the themes are so contemporary and universal, that due to the WW2 link, i think this book would appeal to an older generation as well. It has a similar style/genre to Austen and Bronte, but is far more modern and therefore more relevant and accessible to readers today. Lucinda Riley is a new autor who I have never read before, but I would certainly recommend this book and cant wait for the next one! It was a page turner and kept me guessing until the last page...definitely not a predictable book! The only criticism I have of the book was that I was so sad when I had finished it! It has been written remarkably well, and all ties together perfectly; the theme in the first few pages being clear all the way through and then very cleverly returning at the very end, making a complete circle. An amazing and captivating read.


  • Having read all the glowing reports I must be a cynic but I did find this book really predictable and a bit lazy.

    I am usually enchanted by a story which takes you to far away places with beautiful descriptions, or transports back in time and gives vivid picture so the struggles of war.

    When a 'foriegner' comes in to the picture, be it Harry's mother or lover, the author attempts to help us get the accent by adding the occasional Oui or nest pas - rather like our good friend Poirot, or poor pidgeon english for Lidia his Thai lover. I found it embarrasing and uncomfortable to read in points.

    This book finished really abruptly finishing off the novel in a bit of a flurry and seemed to just neatly tie up the ends as if the author had to get finished before dinner was ready.

    Bit dissapointing to be honest.


  • This book was amazing, loved it! It's been a while since I read until 4a.m without stopping. I think it's written from a very romantic and realistic imagiation - I could quite easily see it playing out on the big screen in front of me! so sorry when it finished - I wanted to follow the characters for the next few years at least! Good selection RJ! :o)


  • I loved this book and have reccomended it highly to anyone who will listen. It is my favourite book in a long long time, and another great choice by R and J. I look forward to more by this author.


  • I am an avid reader and enjoy most types of books .Have just finished reading this magical book and haven't stopped telling friends about it ! Read it in a few days after picking it up in Asda-the cover caught my eye.Did not disappoint .Wanted to write to Lucinda and tell her how wonderful it was and how i sat at night with tears running down my face reading about Harry and his true love!


  • this book is truely amazing, from start to finish i couldnt put it down, its got everything in a book you could ever ask for and the twists are mindblowing, loved it so much just sad that ive finished!


  • This story is largely told in two parts. In this sense, then, I particularly enjoyed half of the book. I found the contemporary section enjoyable (albeit a little far fetched in places), but enjoyed the atmosphere Riley evoked with her writing: the loneliness, darkness and cold of her grief, and the warmth of a romance. However, I felt very little warmth towards Harry, around which the historical narrative revolves. Ultimately enjoyable, but did find some of the plot twists predictable and unbelievable in places.

    C Connor

  • I went out and bought this book based on the rave reviews it got & I'm in the minority here by not really liking it much. It's pure Mills & Boon romantic fiction. I found Julia a very unrealistic character, how could somebody go from an almost catatonic state of grief to allowing a man she only met a couple of times come and look after her while she's ill? Her rapid recovery from her grief was unbelievable. The story was entirely predictable, mushy and far-fetched at times. I realise that book clubs must cater for every taste and this was definitely not to my taste, even as romantic fiction.


  • I think it's great that WH Smiths are discounting these books but I'd like to know why in the case of Hothouse Flowers it costs more to buy it as an Ebook than as a paperback.

    Kirsten French

  • I am so close to finishing the book now, I have not been able to put the book down, I am loving it. It is a bit predictable I must admit but there are still enough twists and turns to completely surprise you. The characters are believable and descriptions so good I can conjure up the places in my mind. I think its a brilliant read.


  • A good book and some time to read pleases most book lovers, but we offer so much more for readers. Our book community offers those people who love to read a wide range of book reviews and book recommendations. Also. Happy reading!

    Paul Fuller

  • Found this book a little hard to get into initially. I was enjoying it but I wasn't on the edge of my seat. However, I remember putting the book down one evening having got to page 190 and the penny dropped that I was totally hooked. So, stick with it if you feel the same. It really picked up for me and I was gripped till the end.


  • I really enjoyed this book, and loved the way the two stories intertwined. My one slight niggle is the 'twist' towards the end which I found to be a bit unbelievable and sensationalised the book which wasn't needed. However, don't let this put you off and suffice to say, I was disappointed when I got to the end.


  • A really enjoyable book, hard to put down and was sorry when I had finished it.

    Angela Challiss

  • I was utterly drawn in by this book. So much so that as a working mum of two I struggle to find time to read as much as I would like to, but I made time for this book - it is an excellent page turner! I made time by reading this book early in the mornings by creeping downstairs and curling up on the sofa with a mug of coffee. I became totally engrossed as it was so descriptive that I sometimes forgot that I was actually reading as the story played out in my mind so vividly. It has been a long time since I have been fully absorbed by a book and I would highly recommend this one.


  • I have just finished this book, having bought it after reading the back cover, which really sold it to me. However, after reading the first few pages, I felt almost dissappointed, it started out quite drab and unconvincing. Where the present-day narrative of Julia is concerened, I found the plot a slightly dull and the writing was a bit uncomfortable and very repetitive. However, plough through that bit to where we are transported back in time, the plot improves dramatically. I found myself feeling a little sad at the intervals where we are back to the predictable and convenient present-day 'love story', rather like the advert breaks in a good film on television. Still a very enjoyable light read, if a bit inconsistent.


  • Having loved all the other Richard and Judy books i have read , i was realy disappointed with Hothouse flower. I didn't think the language flowed and the ending felt predictable.


  • I cannot tell you how much I loved this book. I spent a whole day reading this book as I could not put it down. I feel I could not do it justice in reviewing it and I cannot wait to read another of her books

    Heather Johnson

  • Thoroughly enjoyed a really good read. However did I miss something? regarding Julia's husband Xavier and the accident . On page 486 it says " There were other, adult bones nearer the car." This was never explained -I was expecting there to have been another woman etc in car. Just seemed that this confirmed that 2 people were killed and then surprise surprise he is still alive!!!!

    Linda Coulter

  • Having read three books from the spring selection this is a marvellous read and one which could easily be the basis of a film .

    Joan Williams

  • I loved this book full of so many emotions, another hit for this author

    Elaine Speakman

  • I also loved Forgotten Garden and The House at Riverton and this is very similar to those, I love good old fashioned story telling, with twists and turns and good old family secrets that get revealed to future family generations. It takes you away from all the doom and gloom that we hear so much about at the moment and transports you to another era and another way of life.


  • From start to finish this book is full of twists and turns- certainly never a dull moment. I felt so many emotions about each and every character. I could visualise them and hear every accent they spoke clearly as I read each page. This book is a beautiful story and it was honestly like watching a film in my mind- the descriptive way Luicinda Riley writes... mindblowing!! I can't wait to read more of her stories. Up to now my favourite author was Catherine Cookson, but Luicnda Riley is right up there with her, read this book- you will not be dissapointed!


  • I thoroughly loved this book, it keeps you interested and you care about the characters. Im not one for judging the prose and writing, etc. I just want a cracking good read that will make me keep turning the pages and this is that sort of book.

    Su Trinder

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