New Novel From Award-Winning Author Focuses On Multi-Cultural Love, Disability And Overcoming Adversity

The following is an excerpt from award-winning author Carol Van Den Hende’s romance novel ‘Always, Orchid‘ (out October 24), a book based on multi-cultural love, disability and overcoming adversity. This new series is inspired by wounded veterans and highlights disability advocacy. As mom to a special needs son, she aims to deepen people’s hope and empathy. Her multicultural characters draw from her own Chinese-American heritage. Her books are endorsed by Purple Heart decorated veterans like Sgt. Noah Galloway (a double amputee who finished as a finalist in Dancing with the Stars), and triple amputee Sgt. Bryan Anderson. With themes of identity, disability, and the redemptive power of love, ‘Always, Orchid’ is perfect for fans of ‘Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow’ by Gabrielle Zevin and ‘Fault in Our Stars’ by John Green.

Phoenix Walker will never be the same. Nine months after a heroic act left him forever changed, he refuses to hurt Orchid Paige ever again. Orchid is ready to forgive. Convincing her guy she still loves him, no matter his injuries, she works to rebuild their intimacy. But their move to her family’s ancestral country unveils China’s superstitions against people with disabilities. Worse, their friend’s life has been upended by those prejudices. Will Phoenix and Orchid find a way to beat the odds and turn discrimination into acceptance?

Chapter 1: Convivial Revival


New York City

Have you ever been in the middle of a moment, an instant that’s suspended between what was and what is about to be?

At the age of twenty-eight, Orchid Paige thought that her parents might be proud to witness her life from their vantage point in heaven. She loved her friends, had built a career, and secured a temporary work assignment in her mom’s ancestral country. 

This past year, she’d almost given up hope for one last fragment of happiness, after she’d fallen for Phoenix Walker — advertising wunderkind, athlete, entrepreneur— and he’d abandoned her. She hadn’t known at the time that he’d left to shield her from his life-changing accident.

Tonight, they’d attended his ex-girlfriend Tish’s wedding. She’d agreed to accompany him as an opportunity to say farewell before she moved overseas. Then, the truth of the evening unfurled into an unexpected twist. Phoenix’s words had promised the missing piece to her joy. “Tell me we can try again. Long distance, or I’ll find business in China.”

Her chest had expanded with possibility, and a kiss that was soft, urgent, and not quite enough to compensate for their lost months. He was gorgeous, from the intensity of his cobalt blue irises to the scruff of yesterday’s beard. To ensure she’d never make him feel less than, she didn’t focus on the rounded end of his forearm visible below his cuffed-up sleeve.

She returned to the present moment as dancing throngs parted. Her feet tapped along to the pace of the DJ’s pounding bassline.

Their round table and Phoenix’s twin Caleb came into view. Even from afar, she could see the bride’s sorority sister Gail, draped over Caleb’s massive shoulder, yapping into his ear. Caleb eyed Phoenix and Orchid’s approach and began to push his chair back. He gestured towards an invisible watch on his tattooed wrist, indicating to them that it was time to depart.

Phoenix leaned closer to Orchid and murmured. “Are you ready?”

She squeezed Phoenix’s palm. “If we don’t go, I might do something terrible to Gail.” After Gail had asked about his injuries, she’d declared “I could’ve never survived that,” making his life sound impossibly dire. Phoenix’s frown had sparked Orchid’s protectiveness.

He chuckled. “I’ll help.”

Protecting him was the least she could do. After the losses he’d sustained to save a man’s life, it seemed unjust for Gail to hurt his feelings with unthinking words.

Caleb stood and joined them before they reached the table. “Bye,” he said to Gail, and stalked a step ahead of them.

“Tell Tish we said mazel tov,” Phoenix called to Gail, who gave a crestfallen expression as she waved goodbye.

The threesome’s pace accelerated towards the exit.

Outside, the April air cleared some of her tequila fog.

Her reservations had yet to fully form.

They were perfect. As long as he would follow through on his commitments.

They were perfect. As long as she didn’t allow herself to be triggered by the injuries that he had tried to hide from the wedding photographer’s lens.

Along the quiet street where their car was parked, an inky black sky opened over their heads. Like a sign, a star flickered, faint and far.

Orchid ducked to deposit herself into the limo. Emotion blurred her view. Phoenix’s palm protectively cupped her head, the back of his hand taking the brunt of her mad dash into the car.

The silky fabric of her tartan dress slid across the leather bench. “Ouch,” she said, even though nothing hurt. Not her noggin, not her ego, not her tequila-fueled fingertips. She marveled at the zillion possibilities that spun before them.

She abandoned the wedding favors onto the carpet cushioning her high-heeled feet.

Phoenix slid beside her, and his brother Caleb on the far side. The door shut.

“You, okay?” Phoenix murmured. He mussed the spot along her hairline. The automobile glided forward.

She nodded. Okay? She was besotted. Besotted with Phoenix’s eyebrows knitted with concern, his wave of hair that flowed against the grain of his thick tresses, his clean scent, the shape of his mouth compressed with care.

“Yeah. Sorry for my clumsiness,” she said. Orchid brought his palm to her lips. He’d have a bruise tomorrow. His one precious hand would pay for his chivalry. The dark sky out the window inspired a thought. “Have you ever wondered about parallel universes? Like one where we didn’t have to go through all this drama?”

Humor played at the corners of his mouth. “You mean there’s a universe where I gave the suicidal guy a grand and he skipped out of the subway station happy?” he asked.

Caleb stretched his meaty neck, “Some physicists think our concept of time will be disproved. That it doesn’t just move in one direction.”

“Time travel? If I could go back, I’d undo a few things,” Phoenix said.

She pondered all the things that could’ve avoided the pain of last year.

“You could undo hiding your accident from me. You could have not rebuffed me at Easter.” She leaned towards him, and threaded fingers with his. His long digits had swiveled a spigot shut in a dark downtown club where they had met a year ago. They had tapped texts and emails to her during months of working on his non-profit project.

His eyebrow raised. “If I could go back, I’d tell you how I felt before you left for China.”

“Me too. And now you get to come with me to China.”

A frown downturned his mouth then disappeared. She wanted to take his words as a promise. I’ll find business in China. Yet, she began to wonder about the risk in trusting him.

Hers had always been a life of striving. Good fortune? Never, Orchid. She could only count on herself. Trusting someone else meant ceding her autonomy.

Phoenix read the shift in her expression. “You with me, Kai Lan?” The endearment brought her back to the warmth of his arm against hers. A year ago, he’d bestowed the moniker on her the night they’d collided in a men’s room, a reference to the children’s TV show “Ni Hao Kai Lan.”

She nodded. And started compiling the promises she’d need.

She wasn’t about to give up her promotion and dream of a new life in China.

Not for anything.

Carol Van Den Hende is an award-winning novelist who pens stories of resilience and hope. Her novels ‘Orchid Blooming’ and ‘Goodbye, Orchid’ draw from her own Chinese American family’s history, and have won 30+literary awards, including the American Fiction Award, IAN Outstanding Fiction First Novel Award, and Royal Dragonfly Awards for Disability Awareness and Cultural Diversity. Buzzfeed, Parade, and Travel+Leisure named “heartwarming, heartbreaking” ‘Goodbye, Orchid’ a most anticipated read. Glamour Magazine recommended this “modern, important take on the power of love.” Carol’s mission is unlocking optimism as a writer, speaker, global marketer, digital strategist, Board Trustee and Climate Reality Leader. One secret to her good fortune? Her humorous husband and twins, who prove that love really does conquer all.