New York City, 1940: Flora Lewis has always loved learning about plants and flowers but has had to put her commitments to her parent’s bakery before any personal pursuits in order to help keep their family afloat. But now, with the threat of losing the bakery and the apartment above it looming over them, Flora agrees to travel to England to help an international ring of flower thieves locate a rare and valuable camellia plant, the Middlebury Pink. Excited for the adventure that lies ahead but apprehensive about her hidden agenda, Flora poses as a nanny at Livingston Manor where the last camellia is believed to be hidden within a beautiful orchard built for the recently deceased Lady Livingston.
It doesn’t take long for Flora to care deeply for the children in her charge – as well as their dashing older brother. But as she becomes a valuable part of the running of the manor she quickly senses that a dark shadow hangs over the family and that something sinister has been going on, something involving a number of women that have gone missing in the village. When it is clear that everyone – servants and family members included – are hiding secrets regarding what has actually been happening, how will Flora know who to trust? And if she does discover what has truly been going on, will she be able to escape the same fate?
New York City, 2000: Addison Sinclair has finally found the life she has been searching for. She is happily married to a charming and caring English writer, Rex. Her landscape design business is really taking off. Life seems perfect. But when her past – a dark past that she has kept hidden from everyone, even Rex – comes literally calling her back to it she convinces her husband this is the perfect time to escape to the home in the English countryside his parents have recently purchased. So off to Livingston Manor they go.
A beautiful yet eerie feeling seems to permeate every corner of the estate and its extensive gardens and the couple’s curiosity is instantly piqued. As they both start digging into the home’s past, looking for inspiration for Rex’s next book, they find information that points towards a malevolence that neither could have guessed. But as the manor’s past becomes clearer Addison’s own past shows up on their doorstep, refusing to stay hidden any longer. Could it finally be time for all the dark secrets to be revealed? And even if they are, is it too late to save Addison?
The Last Camellia is one of those books that, once I’ve turned the last page, I just sit back and say “wow”. I am always thoroughly impressed to see an author be able to twist and weave the past and the present, slowly revealing all the facts until the various pieces neatly fit together. Combine this with disquieting characters, evil intentions and a big, creaky old house and it’s really hard to put the book down and do anything else.
My favorite aspect of the book is the underlying them of regret and redemption. Both of our main characters are hiding secrets they are ashamed of and both will do whatever they can to do the right thing in the end. Now whether they are successful or not I will leave you to find out yourself.
The Last Camellia is an addicting kind of read and will fit perfectly in your beach bag or tucked up with you on a dark and stormy night. Bravo Sarah Jio!
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Plume. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.