The Last Camellia: A Novel

( 29 )

Overview

"Terrific … compelling … an intoxicating blend of mystery, history and romance, this book is hard to put down." —Real Simple

On the eve of the Second World War, the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink lies secreted away on an English country estate. Flora, an amateur American botanist, is contracted by an international ring of flower thieves to infiltrate the household and acquire the coveted bloom. Her search is at once brightened by new ...

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The Last Camellia: A Novel

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Overview

"Terrific … compelling … an intoxicating blend of mystery, history and romance, this book is hard to put down." —Real Simple

On the eve of the Second World War, the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink lies secreted away on an English country estate. Flora, an amateur American botanist, is contracted by an international ring of flower thieves to infiltrate the household and acquire the coveted bloom. Her search is at once brightened by new love and threatened by her discovery of a series of ghastly crimes.

More than half a century later, garden designer Addison takes up residence at the manor, now owned by the family of her husband, Rex. The couple’s shared passion for mysteries is fueled by the enchanting camellia orchard and an old gardener’s notebook. Yet its pages hint at dark acts ingeniously concealed. If the danger that Flora once faced remains very much alive, will Addison share her fate?

Fans of Downton Abbey should rush to pick up this novel.
 

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  • The Last Camellia
    The Last Camellia  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her fourth novel, Jio (The Violets of Summer) relies on her tried-and-true, and generally successful, formula of basing the novel on a present-day protagonist unraveling mysteries from the life of a woman in the early decades of the 20th century. In 2000, landscape designer Addison flees her New York City home (and secret past) with her English husband, Rex, for Livingston Manor, his parents' new country estate outside London. But she soon finds that Livingston Manor has secrets of its own that relate to a woman who, 60 years before, underwent the same journey. In 1940 amateur botanist Flora, at the behest of an international flower thief, leaves New York behind to work as a nanny for the estate's owners, a wealthy family who may have been harboring a rare camellia species on their property. She discovers, however, something far more sinister going on, involving women who have been disappearing from a nearby town. In 2000, Addison gradually realizes that the same danger Flora once faced may be closing in on her as well. Jio, who has proven herself a solid crafter of suspense and intrigue, stumbles a bit in her latest effort but not enough to deter her many fans. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Weed Literary. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
A historical mystery that spans over 60 years, told from the alternating perspectives of two young women: Flora in 1940 and Addison in 2000. The setting is an old English manor with a very special garden and orchard. The camellia of the title is a rare and valuable botanic specimen which flower thieves desire to steal and sell, but there are far more sinister stories hidden in the closed-off rooms of the historic manor house. Jio opens the story with a prologue written at the English cottage in 1803 to establish the significance of the special flower, then moves to New York in 2000, where Addison, formerly Amanda, is being spied on and stalked by a sinister villain named Sean who threatens to expose some past transgressions to her new husband. Her husband, Rex, is a sweet young man from England whose family has recently purchased the estate and asked him to come out and help plan renovations. She decides that trip to England might be the best way to escape the spooky attentions of Sean. Then the narrative flashes back to Flora's story in 1940. Flora also travels from New York to the manor, where she will work as a nanny to the children of the strange, strict and touchy widower who lives there while she conducts an undercover search for that valuable plant for another sinister stalker who recruited her with the promise to pay off her parents' debt (the "or else" being what usually happens to poor folks who find themselves in debt to bad guys). Questions are continually raised, and most are ultimately answered, in this collection of intersecting stories. The images of the flowers, the landscape and the manor house are vivid and make for a tantalizing read.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452298392
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 152,528
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Jio is an author and journalist. She lives in Seattle with her three young boys and a geriatric golden retriever.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

A cottage in the English countryside April 18, 1803

he old woman’s hand trembled as she clutched her teacup. Out of breath, she hadn’t stopped to wash the dirt from under her nails. She hovered over the stove, waiting for the teakettle to whistle as she eyed the wound on her finger, still raw. She’d clumsily cut it on the edge of the garden shears, and it throbbed beneath the bloodstained bandage. She’d tend to it later. Now she needed to come to her senses.

She poured water in the little white ceramic pot with the hairline crack along the edge and waited for the tea leaves to steep. Could it be? She’d seen a bloom, as clear as day. White with pink tips. The Middlebury Pink, she was certain of it. Her husband, rest his soul, had tended to the camellia for twenty years—sang to it in the spring, even covered its dark emerald leaves with a quilt when the frost came. Special, he’d called it. The woman hadn’t understood all the fuss over a scrawny tree, especially when the fields needed plowing and there were potatoes to be harvested.

If he could only see it now. In bloom. What if someone from the village finds it? No, she couldn’t let that happen. It was her responsibility to make sure of that.

Years ago, her husband spent sixpence on the tree, which was then just a sprout peeking out of a ceramic pot. The traveling salesman told him it had been propagated from a shoot at the base of the Middlebury Pink, the most beautiful camellia in all of England, and perhaps even the world. The only known cultivar, which produced the largest, most stunning blooms—white with pink tips— presided over the Queen’s rose garden inside the gates of the palace. Of course, the woman hadn’t believed the tale, not then, and she had scolded her husband for his foolishness in spending such a high price on what might be a weed, but in her heart, she did love to see him happy. And when he looked at the tree, he was happy. “I suppose it’s better than squandering money on drink,” she had said. “Besides, if it blooms, maybe we can sell the buds at the market.”

But the tree didn’t bloom. Not the first year or the second, or the third or fourth. And by the tenth year, the old woman had given up hope entirely. She grew bitter when her husband whispered to the tree in the mornings. He said he had read about the technique in a garden manual, but when she found him spritzing the tree with a mixture of water and her best vegetable soap, she didn’t care that he said it would ward off pests; her patience had worn thin. Sometimes she wished for a bolt of lightning to strike the tree, split it in two, so her husband could stop fawning over it the way he did. She thought, more than once, about taking an ax to its slim trunk and letting the blade slice through the green wood. It would feel good to take out her anger on the tree. But she refrained. And after the man died, the tree remained in the garden. Years passed, and the grass grew high around its trunk. The ivy wrapped its tendrils around the branches. The old woman paid no attention to the camellia until that morning, when a fleck of pink caught her eye. The single saucer-size blossom was more magnificent than she could ever have imagined. More beautiful than any rose she’d ever seen, it swayed in the morning breeze with such an air of royalty, the old woman had felt the urge to curtsey in its presence.

She took another sip of tea. The timing was uncanny. Just days ago, a royal decree had been issued notifying the kingdom that a rare camellia in the Queen’s garden had been decimated in a windstorm. Greatly saddened, the Queen had learned that a former palace gardener had propagated a seedling from the tree and sold it to a farmer in the countryside. She had ordered her footmen to search the country for her beloved tree’s descendant and to arrest the person who had harbored it all those years.

The woman stared ahead. She turned to the window when she heard horses’ hooves in the distance. Moments later, a knock sounded at the door, sending ripples through her tea. She smoothed the wisps of gray hair that had fallen loose from her bun, took a deep breath, and opened the door.

“Good day,” said a smartly dressed man. His tone was polite but urgent. “Upon orders from Her Majesty, we are searching the country for a certain valuable variety of camellia.” The woman eyed the man’s clothing—plain, common. He was an impostor; even she could tell. Her husband had warned her of the lot—flower thieves. Of course, it all fit. If they could get to the camellia before the Queen’s footmen, they could command a fortune for it. The man held a page in his hand, rolled up into a tight scroll. Unfurling it with great care, he pointed to the blossom painted on the page, white with pink tips.

The woman’s heart beat so loudly, she could hear nothing else.

“Do you know of its whereabouts?” the man asked. Without waiting for her reply, he turned to search the garden for himself.

The man walked along the garden path, past the rows of vegetables and herbs, trampling the carrot greens that had just pushed through the recently thawed soil. He stood looking ahead where the tulips had reared their heads through the black earth. He knelt down to pluck a bud, still green and immature, examining it carefully. “If you see the tree,” he said, twirling the tulip in his hand, before tossing it behind him, “send word to me in town. The name’s Harrington.”

The old woman nodded compliantly. The man gestured toward the north. Just over the hill was Livingston Manor. The lady of the house had been kind to them, offering to let them stay in the old cottage by the carriage house so long as they tended the kitchen garden. “Better not mention my visit to anyone at the manor,” the man said.

“Yes, sir,” the woman said hastily. She stood still, watching as he returned to his horse. When she could no longer hear the click-clack on the road, she followed the garden path past the pear tree near the fence until she came to the camellia bearing its one, glorious bloom.

No, she thought to herself, touching the delicate blossom. The Queen could search every garden in the land, and the flower thieves could examine every petal, but she would make sure they never found this one.

Chapter 1

Addison

New York City June 1, 2000

The phone rang from the kitchen, insistent, taunting. It might as well have been a stick of dynamite on the granite counter-top. If I didn’t pick it up after three rings, the answering machine would turn on. I cannot let the answering machine turn on.

“Are you getting that?” my husband, Rex, said from the couch, looking up from his notebook. He had an adorable fascination with old-school appliances. Typewriters, record players, and an answering machine circa 1987. But at that moment, I longed for voice mail. If only we had voice mail.

“I’ll get it!” I said, jumping up from the breakfast table and stubbing my toe on the leg of the chair. I winced. One ring. Two.

The hair on my arms stood on end. What if it was him? He had started calling two weeks ago, and every time the phone rang, I felt the familiar terror. Calm. Deep breath. Maybe it was one of my clients. That horrible Mrs. Atwell, the one who’d made me redo her rose garden three times. Or the IRS. Let it be the IRS. Anyone would be more welcome than the person I feared waited on the other end of the line.

If I turned off the machine, he’d call again. Like a shark sensing blood in the water, he’d keep circling until he got what he wanted.

I had to answer it. “Hello?” I said airily into the receiver.

Rex looked up, smiled at me, then returned to his notebook.

“Hello again, Addison.” His voice made me shiver. I couldn’t see him, of course, but I knew his face—the patchy stubble that grew around his chin, that amused look in his eyes. “You know, I don’t care for your new name. Amanda suited you much better.”

I remained silent, quickly opening the French doors and stepping outside onto the patio that overlooked a tiny patch of garden— rare for the city, but all ours. A bird chirped happily from the little camellia tree Rex and I had planted last year on our first wedding anniversary. I hated that he was trespassing on my private sanctuary.

“Listen,” I whispered. “I told you to stop calling me.” I looked up at the apartment building behind our townhouse, wondering if he could see me from one of the windows above.

“Amanda, Amanda,” he said, amused.

“Stop calling me that.”

“Oh, I forgot,” he continued. “You’re all fancy now. I read about your wedding in the paper.” He clicked his tongue scoldingly. “Quite the fairy-tale ending for a girl who—”

“Please,” I said. I couldn’t bear the sound of his voice, the way it made me think of the past. “Why can’t you leave me alone?” I begged.

“You mean, you don’t miss me? Think of all the good times we had together. You remember the way we used to—”

“Stop,” I said, cringing.

“Oh, I see how it is,” he said. “All stuck-up now that you married the King of England. You think you’re really something. Well, let me ask you this: Does your husband know who you really are? Does he know what you’ve done?”

I felt sick, woozy. “Please, please leave me alone,” I pleaded, feeling my throat tightening as I swallowed.

He laughed to himself. “But I can’t,” he said. “No. You see, I spent ten years of my life in prison. That’s a long time to think about things. And I thought a lot about you, Amanda. Almost every day.”

I shuddered. With him behind bars, I’d felt a false sense of security. His incarceration, for two felony counts of money laundering and a lesser charge of statutory rape, had felt like a thick, warm blanket wrapped around me. And now that he was out, the blanket had been ripped off. I felt exposed, frightened.

“Here’s the thing, baby,” he continued. “I’m sitting on a very valuable piece of information. I mean, you can’t blame me for wanting the same cushy life you have.”

“I’m going to hang up now,” I said, my finger hovering over the End Call button.

“This can all end well,” he said. “You know what I want.”

“I already told you I don’t have that kind of money.”

“You may not,” he said, “but your husband’s family does.”

“No, don’t bring them into this.”

“Well,” he said, “then I have no other choice.” I heard the chime of an ice cream truck on the other end of the line. I remembered chasing after those trucks as a little girl, wide-eyed, hopeful. I don’t know why; I never had a dollar for an ice cream sandwich, and yet they lured me still.

I pulled the phone from my ear and listened as the same notes sounded, a block away, perhaps. The melody struck terror in me. The truck was close. Too close.

“Where are you?” I asked, suddenly panicked.

“Why? You want to see me?” he said, amused. I could picture the menacing grin on his face.

My chin quivered. “Please, leave me alone,” I pleaded. “Can’t you just leave me alone?”

“It could have been so easy,” he said. “But you’ve tried my patience. If I don’t have the money by the end of the week, I’ll have no other choice but to tell your husband everything. And when I say ‘everything,’ I mean everything.”

“No,” I cried. “Please!”

I walked around the building and peered beyond the fence at the side yard. The ice cream truck motored past, slowly. Children cheered and squealed as the melodic chimes poured through the loudspeaker, and yet, with each note, I became increasingly paralyzed with terror. “You have five days, Amanda,” he said. “And, by the way, you look stunning in that dress. Blue’s your color.”

The line went dead, and I looked down at my blue linen dress, before turning to the street. The walnut tree in the distance. An old Honda with tinted windows and a rusty hood parked nearby. A bus stop that cast jagged shadows on the sidewalk.

I ran back to the house and closed the French doors, locking them behind me. “Let’s go to England,” I said to Rex, breathless.

He pushed his dark-rimmed glasses higher on the bridge of his nose. “really?” He looked confused. “I thought you didn’t want to make the trip. Why the change of heart?”

My in-laws had recently purchased a historic manor in the English countryside, and they’d invited Rex and me to stay there for the summer while they continued their travels throughout Asia, where Rex’s father, James, was working. Rex, whose novel-in-progress was set in a manor in the English countryside, thought it would be perfect for research. And we both shared a love of old homes. From what his mother, Lydia, had said on the phone, the estate brimmed with history.

But the timing was off. My landscape design business had enjoyed a surge of activity, and I was juggling four new clients, including a massive garden installation on a rooftop in Manhattan. It was a terrible time to leave. And yet now I had no choice. Sean didn’t know about the manor. He wouldn’t find me there. The trip would give me time to think.

My eyes darted around the living room nervously. “Well, I don’t. . . . I mean, I didn’t.” I sighed, collecting myself. “I’ve just been thinking it over, and, well, maybe we do need a getaway. Our anniversary is coming up.” I sat down on the couch beside him, twirling a lock of his shiny dark hair between my fingers. “I could explore the gardens, maybe even learn a thing or two; you know everyone’s crazy about English gardens here.” I was talking fast, the way I do when I’m worried. Rex could tell, I know, because he squeezed my hand.

“You’re nervous about the airplane, aren’t you, honey?” he said.

True, I did have a bit of airplane fright, and my doctor had prescribed Xanax for such moments. But, no, Rex didn’t know the real reason for my anxiety, and I could never let him find out.

There was a time when I believed I’d tell him the truth about me. But the longer I waited, the more it seemed impossible to open my mouth and utter the painful words. So I didn’t. Instead, I hid behind my carefully crafted story. A girl from a wealthy family in New Hampshire whose parents had died in a car accident years ago. The money that had all been lost in a fraudulent investment scheme. Rex had believed it all, believed in me. He didn’t wonder why I didn’t get Christmas cards or birthday calls. He didn’t ask if I wanted to visit my childhood home. He admired my strength, he said, that I could live in the present and not mourn the past. If only you knew.

I tucked my hand in his. “I’ll be fine,” I said. “And you said that the house would be the perfect place to really dig into your research—let’s do it, Rex. Let’s go.”

He smiled, touching my cheek lightly. “You know I’d love to make the trip, but only if you’re certain.”

“I am,” I said, shifting my gaze to the window and eyeing the rusty car parked on the street. I stood up and pulled the drapes closed. “The sun’s so bright today.” I continued, reaching for my phone, “I bet I can call the travel agency and get tickets for tomorrow.”

“really?” he said. “That quick?”

I forced a smile. “Why not? We might as well make the most of the summer.”

“Well,” he said, setting his notebook aside, “I’ll phone my parents and see about arrangements. Wait, what about your clients?”

I winced inwardly, remembering the intricate boxwood-lined courtyard I’d planned for a client and the adjoining butterfly garden for her two little girls. I’d promised that the installation would be in place by the end of next week, for her daughter’s birthday. My assistant, Cara, would have to oversee it all. She’d do a fine job, but it wouldn’t be the job I’d do. The astilbes wouldn’t be spaced perfectly. The hebe wouldn’t be clipped into smooth spheres the way I’d envisioned. I sighed. I knew I couldn’t stay, not with the dark cloud that hovered. I just had to make sure it didn’t follow me to England.

“Ready?” Rex asked in the doorway the next evening. I’d managed to book us two seats on the nine p.m. direct flight to London.

“Yeah,” I said from the doorstep, cinching my scarf higher on my neck. I took a few steps toward the cab waiting at the sidewalk, then froze.

Rex looked at me. “Is that the phone ringing?”

I shivered, looking back at the house. The ring was muffled but detectable.

“Should I run back and get it?”

“No,” I said, hurrying to the car. “Let’s not stop. We’ll miss our plane.”

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 29 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(16)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2013

    Slowing moving halfway through this novel. Maybe my opinion will

    Slowing moving halfway through this novel. Maybe my opinion will change, hopefully it will. I don't find the characters 3 dimensional. 
    It's difficult to relate to the two protagonists, back and forth the weaving of the story is lethargic. I purchased the book based on the 4 star
    reviews, but  The Last Camellia so far is not pulling me in, catching my interest or even painting a picture. I've never abandoned a book,
    so I'll see it through the last 75 pages. I know (can nearly always predict) what everyone is going to say Before I read it. :( 

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 22, 2013

    I enjoyed it

    As a fan of British mystery books & as an avid gardener, I bought this for my Nook. I enjoyed the book very much & recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Sarah Jio cannot write a book! She just isn't capable of it. The

    Sarah Jio cannot write a book! She just isn't capable of it. The Last Camellia tells the story of 2 women. Addison is trying to outrun her past, until she can't do it anymore. The hands that brought her so much pain and heartache has been released from prison and plans on exacting the revenge he's been planning. Sean torments Addison through intimidating letters and threatening to reveal her past to her husband, Rex, if she doesn't give him a large sum of money.
    Afraid of losing everything, Addison has never revealed her horrific past to anyone. Complete with changing her name, she wanted to bury it in the past. However, it haunts her until the bitter, climatic end.

    Flora's parents have been struggling to make ends meet with their own bakery in New York. Flora agrees to a daring mission after being promised her payment would secure their lives. Flora tells her parents she's going to school in London, but in facts agrees to pose as the Nanny to a family. Somewhere on the family's vast property is believed to be a rare flower, the Middlebury Pink Camellia. Once she locates it, she can go home. What she didn't plan on was stepping into a family still morning the death of their matriarch. A mysterious death, odd servants, & numerous women disappearing from the local village, Flora has 
    bitten off more than she expected to chew. The job she once thought would be easy, stops being so when she falls in love with the children she cares for. From the first page to the last, you are in for a story that will keep you guessing to the very end. Sarah Jio tells yet another memorizing tale that you crawl into and are gripped by to the very last word. I had a hard time with reading the childhood of Addison, but the ending more than made up for that. I do wish we knew how Desmond disappeared never to be found again, but maybe Sarah left that up to the reader's imagination.Sarah Jio is one of those rare, and few, authors who I can truly say it is an honor buy their books. 

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2013

    Sarah has done it once again!  Ilove her mix of historical ficti

    Sarah has done it once again!  Ilove her mix of historical fiction, mystery, and romance.  If you have not read Ms. Jio's work you must do so right away. The Last Camellia is a great read and one that you won't soon forget.  The characters are interesting and the mystery very compelling.  Bravo Ms. Jio, Bravo!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This was a wonderful read, with a mystery I thought I had figure

    This was a wonderful read, with a mystery I thought I had figured out early on but was pleasantly surprised that I had not.
    This book reads like an old fashioned mystery and love story my mother, who gave me my love of the book, would have read, loved and then passed on to me.
    I enjoyed the idea for the story as well, I am a garden dreamer and you have me thinking about plants in general and Camellias in particular which is so sad because on this day where I live we are having yet another snowstorm… in April!
    I like the story that weaves back and forth in time between Flora and Addison, two women who at first seem not have much in common but, as the story unfolds we come to see they have much that binds them together besides the elusive beauty, The Middlebury Pink Camellia.
    In 1940’s America It seems a ring of international flower thieves is on the hunt for the Camellia and they find and seduce Flora, an amateur botanist with dreams of making big money so she can help her family’s ailing bakery.
    Flora is told all she has to do is travel to London and pretend to be a nanny for a wealthy family on the country estate thought to be hiding the prized “Middlebury Pink” and secretly search for it.
    Once Flora gets to know the new family she realizes she can not betray them by letting the greedy flower thieves steal from this family she has come to love. What follows is a mystery that only Addison in present day New York can solve
    Newly married garden designer Addison is having problems with a painful past and a dangerous man that has come back to haunt and threaten her new life.
    Addison decides to take her husband up on his offer of escape to his family’s gorgeous estate in London for a much needed vacation, and in doing so leaving her dreaded past behind.
    Much to her dismay her past has come with her and as she agonizes over her decision to not share with her husband her past she stumbles upon the long buried secret of the Middlebury Pink Camellia that started so long ago on the once lush and large Camellia orchards on her husbands family estate.
    Addison & her husband share a love of mysteries so when she comes upon an old garden journal that hints at strange and troubling acts committed long ago on this very estate they dig deeper into the mystery and in doing so Addison finds the strength to confront her past as well as managing to solve an age old crime, a mystery and a love story as well as her own love story all with the help of the beguiling and beautiful “Middlebury Pink”

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    An ultimate thriller of suspense, history, and intrigue!

    Sarah Jio, once again at her finest, in this thought-provoking drama, full of mystery and adventure within the pages of The Last Camellia. I am slowly making my way through Jio’s book (this is my fifth, and look forward to reading the remainder on my “to read list”).

    Each book includes a masterful talent of bridging the gap between past and present, for an ultimate thriller of suspense, history, and intrigue.

    On the eve of the Second World War, in the 1940’s, Flora a lover of plants and flowers, travels to England to assist with an international ring of flower thieves locate a rare camellia plant (Middlebury Pink),and poses as a nanny at the Livingston Manor where supposedly the camellia is hidden.

    Jump ahead a century to NYC in the early 2000s, where Addison, a garden designer lives at the manor now owned by the family of her husband Rex, a writer. Hidden secrets resurface with two compelling story lines, as they parallel between two different women from murder, affairs, lies, and betrayals.

    Between the two stories of Flora and Addison, Addison’s story line seemed more intense; however enjoyed the cliffhanger and buildup of Flora’s character.

    As usual, the historic aspect is always apparent and strong within Sarah’s novels, as slowly the past, and secrets of this old house begin unfolding, while the gardens, orchards, flowers, and camellias come to life.

    If you love Kate Morton and Diane Chamberlain, as I do, you will love Sarah Jio as highly recommend. A complex story of mystery, secrets, regret, and redemption-- grabbing you from page one to the end.

    I urge you to read Sarah’s newest release “Goodnight June”, coming 5/27/14, as received an advance reading copy ---sure to please her biggest fans and followers!

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  • Posted January 17, 2014

    I finished Sarah Jio's The Last Camellia in the wee hours of the

    I finished Sarah Jio's The Last Camellia in the wee hours of the morning today   I love Sarah Jio's writing and this was no exception.




    Sarah takes the past and blends it with the present and somehow out of all the buried truths, she makes a magnificent story that holds the reader spellbound.    I have nothing against camellias, from the cover shot, they are lovely.   In this book we learn a lot about the camellia.   I always enjoy learning something from the books I read.




    Sarah alternates chapters past and present.   The past are labeled Flora chapters and the present Addison.   Her characters are brilliant.  Flora leaves New York for England in an effort to find her place in the world and help her parents out of their financial problems with the family bakery.   Her story started in the 1940's.
    Addison's Story begins some  sixty years later.   Addison is a garden designer and her husband's family owns Livingston Manor, where Flora's story took place.   Addison came to the manor because she was running away from her past.    These women were strong and human; bold and intelligent.   Each faced her own fears whether it was head on or trying to escape it.    Eventually, they each realized the words inscribed in the front of The Years by Virginia Wolfe were accurate:  "the truth of the matter is that we always know the right thing to do.  The hard part is doing it."   Each woman grew to the point they could and did do the right thing.




    Tinged with a sixty year old mystery, the four Livingston children, a faithful and dedicated husband, (Rex) and a couple of scoundrels, one from each time period, this was one of Sarah's best reads yet

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  • Posted November 7, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    In a nutshell, The Last Camellia is a mystery novel that takes p

    In a nutshell, The Last Camellia is a mystery novel that takes place in two different settings (present day and 1940′s) but in the same location. Present day Addison’s past is catching up to her and so she convinces her husband to skip across the ocean to Livingston Manor. The manor’s key feature is its orchards, and in particular the camellias. Once there, she starts to uncover the mystery of several young women who died in the 1940′s and tries to figure it out while dealing with her own demons.




    Then there’s Flora, who was hired as a nanny for the Livingston children but, really, she was hired to steal a very rare camellia called the Middlebury Pink. She arrives at the manor around the time that women are disappearing and doesn’t quite know what to make of the Livingston family. The whole place is a bit depressing after the recent (and questionable) death of Lady Anna, the mistress of the estate and lover of all things flowers.




    At this point the book was a solid 4 stars. Naturally, there’s some love thrown in and manor living is predictable (snotty kids and gossipy servants). Most of the characters weren’t fully developed but I was able to gloss over that part, too.  But then I got to the end and it plummeted. Now, I’m not one to judge a book by its ending just because I don’t like it, but I do have a problem with unfinished endings. And unfortunately, The book left me confused and pretty irritated. Sure, I can speculate about what happened but I really have no idea. It’s not that it was complex, but rather that it seemed like the author had a page limit and rushed to stay under it. Honestly, 2 more pages would have fixed the whole problem.




    The worst part about this ending is that I loved the author’s other book, Violets of March. Plus, Jio has another book that’s probably good but I’m hesitant to pick it up now. The same thing happened with Lucinda Riley, who wrote one great book and one so-so book, so now I’m torn on whether to read her third. So if you’re looking for an easy read, then you may as well pick this one up and read all but the the Epilogue. Maybe then you won’t be irritated like me!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2013

    Great Read!

    Absolutely loved this book! Sarah Jio is an amazing author. Her books remind me of the books by Kate Morton. Love books that are set in England! I am looking forward to Ms. Jio's next book, "Morning Glory".

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  • Posted October 5, 2013

     

     

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 16, 2013

    Another great novel by this wonderful author

    Another great novel by this wonderful author

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2013

    A very satisfying read. Full of history, romance, mystery, and y

    A very satisfying read. Full of history, romance, mystery, and you never know what's going to happen next! 

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  • Posted August 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I've very much enjoyed all of Sarah Jio's previous books, but La

    I've very much enjoyed all of Sarah Jio's previous books, but Last Camellia was a disappointment. The two different main characters (Flora and Addison) were under developed and the plot was weak. I hope her next book returns to the style of previous books.

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  • Posted August 3, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings  Two story line

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings

     Two story lines collide in a manor outside of London as two women are trying to find out the full story behind the misshappenings in this large English home.  One story takes place in the 1940s as World War II is beginning while the other is a current story, but the run parallel and intersect in the most fascinating ways!

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  • Posted July 12, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This is a wonderful story. I loved it! I read it in a couple of

    This is a wonderful story. I loved it! I read it in a couple of days and plan to reread it is so wonderful. I am also now very interested in Camellia's. I love when an author makes you want to further research and learn more about things. Sarah Jio is an author you must read. You will not regret it. I have read everything she has written and look forward to her next release.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    good read

    G

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Wonderful, couldn't put this book down.

    Wonderful, couldn't put this book down.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2013

    my favorite from sarah jio so far!  a thoroughly enjoyable read!

    my favorite from sarah jio so far!  a thoroughly enjoyable read! 

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    In 1940, Flora Lewis makes her way from the United States to a c

    In 1940, Flora Lewis makes her way from the United States to a country manor just outside of England. Everyone believes she is there to be the new nanny, but she is really working with an international ring of flower thieves. On the estate, it is believed the last know Middlebury Pink camellia plant grows and it's Flora's job to find it. She is hoping to find it quickly and get back to her parents, but what Flora finds is a mystery greater than she ever expected. 




    Addison Sinclair and her husband Rex make there way to the country manor her in-laws have just purchased. Addison is running away from her mysterious past, hoping to figure out a plan. As Addison looks around the manor, she finds an old gardener's notebook with some mystery numbers, the couple tries to uncover this secret code. They soon realize they have stumbled upon a  code connected to a half century old crime spree. Addison's past soon catches up with her, just as they begin to put all the pieces together. 




    I have loved all of Sarah Jio's books, but THE LAST CAMELLIA was amazing. I had such a hard time putting it down (yes, I always have this problem with her books), but I swear almost every chapter ended with a mini cliffhanger! I was sitting on the edge of my seat, never sure what was going to happen next. I was shocked by Addison's past! 




    THE LAST CAMELLIA switches between Flora and Addison's perspective. I really enjoyed how I had no clue how either story would end. I didn't know how everything would tie together. I was on pins and needles. I'm going to be honest and say I couldn't imagine a story surrounding a camellia plant could end up being so mysterious, but it was! Neither of the two women really grabbed me at first, but the more their story moves forward (especially Flora) I wanted them to get out of their situations and fast. 




    The ending of THE LAST CAMELLIA was nail-biting good! I kept waiting to end up in tears and it wasn't until those last few pages and I cried, because it really has a perfect ending! A must read! Highly highly recommending! 




    psst...just make sure you are reading to read this in just one or two sittings!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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