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Friday, July 26, 2013

The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio
Published by Plume ISBN 978-0-452-29839-2
Trade paperback, $15, 304 pages
Reading Sarah Jio’s The Last Camellia makes me wish I knew more about gardening. If I did, I think I would better be able to appreciate the lovely descriptions of the gardens and flowers in them in this novel.

If you like to garden, enjoy a good mystery, and are a fan of TV’s Downton Abbey, The Last Camellia is the book for you.

Like many novels written today, this story features characters from different eras who are somehow tied together (like Tara Conklin's  The House Girl and Chris Bohjalian's The Sandcastle Girls).

Just as WWII is about to begin, Flora, a young woman who works in her parents’ bakery in New York City and volunteers at the botanical garden, is approached by a man who tells her that she can make enough money to get her parents out of debt if she helps him find a rare camellia on an estate in England.

Flora reluctantly agrees to help and finds herself working as a nanny to four young children whose mother has died, and whose father seems too busy with work and grief to pay attention to his children.

She intends to find the flower quickly and get out, but comes to care for the children and a man she meets on the ship on the way over. The man who gave her the assignment becomes increasingly impatient and threatening, and Flora discovers that the children’s mother, Lady Livingston, died under mysterious circumstances.

Flora also finds that four young women were missing near the estate, and she comes across a book of Lady Livingston’s that contains some information about the missing girls.

Mrs. Dilloway, the head housekeeper, comes to like and trust Flora, and shares a secret with Flora. Could Lord Livingston be responsible for the missing girls?

Fifty years later, Addison is hiding a secret of her own. She hasn’t told her husband about an incident in her past, when she was living with her aunt who had taken in foster children.  A man from her past is threatening her and she wants to escape.

Addison and her husband go to England to stay at the estate that his parents bought, which happens to be Lord Livingston’s estate. The housekeeper there is an elderly Mrs. Dilloway, who has been with the family all these years.

Addison’s husband is writing a mystery novel and they become intrigued with the story of the rare camellia and of the missing girls from the past, one of whom is Flora. Addison finds Lady Livingston’s book and uses it to try to solve the mystery of the missing girls.

There were some things in this novel that echoed familiar for me- the relationship between the servants at the estate seemed very Downton-esque, and the scene where the children are afraid of thunder and Flora calms them reminded me of The Sound of Music (minus the singing).

As is sometimes the case in novels with different characters in different eras, one story seems more interesting than the other. Flora’s story intrigued me more, and I would have liked to known more about Lady Livingston’s years in Charleston, South Carolina. Perhaps there will be a prequel?

Rating 3.5 of 5

Sarah Jio's website is here.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for putting my on this tour. Sarah Jio's other stops are here:

Monday, June 24th:  Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, June 26th:  Utah Mom’s Life
Friday, June 28th:  Book Addict Katie
Monday, July 1st:  A Bookworm’s World
Tuesday, July 2nd:  Ageless Pages Review
Wednesday, July 3rd:  A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, July 8th:  Write, Meg!
Thursday, July 11th:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, July 15th:  Amused by Books
Wednesday, July 17th:  Guiltless Reading
Thursday, July 18th:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Monday, July 22nd:  Book Dilettante
Tuesday, July 23rd:  Jenn’s Bookshelves
Wednesday, July 24th:  2 Kids and Tired
Thursday, July 25th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, July 26th:  Books a la Mode - guest post
Friday, July 26th:  BookChickDi


  1. Ooh, I like the idea of a prequel! Thanks for being on the tour!

  2. so far I have only read one Sarah Jio novel - the Bungalow - and really liked it. I am not much of a gardener - even house plants die - so I will have to see if this works for me!