- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Plume (May 28, 2013)
- ISBN-10: 0452298393
- Source: Publisher
The beginning of the Second World War is eminent. Flora, an amateur botanist, works in her family’s bakery in New York City. Times are tough; her father is often approached by those he owes money to. So, when she is approached by a man offering a large sum of money in return for Flora’s assistance, she cannot possibly turn it down. She soon learns that the man who hired her is part of an international ring of flower thieves. Flora’s task: to infiltrate an English manor an obtain the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink. She gains access to the home under the ruse that she is there to serve as a nanny for the children of a widower. Their mother died mysteriously over a year ago. The children, still suffering from the loss of their mother and the near abandonment by their father, are desperate for structure and stability. It doesn’t take long for Flora to bond with them and the other staff at the manor. In doing so, she uncovers a series of dark secrets surrounding their mother’s death.
Fast forward to the year 2000. Addison is a garden designer working in Manhattan. Her business thriving but, due to a threatening past that haunts her, agrees to join her husband, Rex, to an English manor recently purchased by his parents. Livingston Manor is the perfect escape she needs. The lush, yet overgrown, camellia orchard is full of deep, dark secrets. As she begins to explore the manor under the watchful eye of Mrs. Dilloway, Livingston manor’s housekeeper, Addison discovers that it is more than the orchard that holds a secret past. As she attempts to avoid her own past that has come flooding into the present, Addison reveals a mystery surrounding the enchanting last camellia.
The Last Camellia isn’t the first novel I’ve read by this author but, by far, it is my favorite. It combines attributes of novels I’ve always been drawn to, including a rich gothic setting and a deep, dark mystery. Additionally, Jio creates to incredibly well-developed characters in Flora and Addison. While Addison’s past is a bit more jaded than Flora’s, both characters are genuinely attempting to do what is best, putting aside their own feelings and needs in order to provide for others. While I felt we learned a bit more about Flora than Addison, both women were truly remarkable characters I found myself rooting for.
The setting Jio creates at Livingston manor is breathtaking. From the sprawling grounds to the dark, and elusive orchards, readers will be instantly immersed in the setting, feeling as though you are walking through the grounds yourself. The manor itself seemed absolutely gorgeous, full of hidden rooms and chambers. The perfect setting for a mysterious death unsolved for over half a century.
Fans of mystery and historical fiction will be certain to adore this novel as much as I did. I cannot wait for Sarah’s next novel, Morning Glory, due out in September!
Thank you to TLC Book tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour!
Read my reviews of Sarah’s other books: