Title: The Last Camellia
Author: Sarah Jio
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
First line: The old woman’s hand trembled as she clutched her teacup.
Goodreads blurb: On the eve of World War II, 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?
I have read all three of Sarah Jio’s previous books: The Violets of March, Blackberry Winter, and The Bungalow. (Click on the titles to see my reviews.) I loved each and every one of them. The combination of historical and modern storylines can be a difficult plot device to carry off, but Jio does it well. Her main strength is the depth of her characters and settings; I come to know the people and can see and experience the places.
I wonder if I would have ratedThe Last Camellia higher if it had been the first Sarah Jio novel I read. I can’t help comparing this book to the previous three, and unfortunately, the depth of character and setting is simply not there. I enjoyed reading it, but it didn’t “wow” me the way the other three did. After I finished it, I realized it was because I didn’t feel as much toward the characters.
In spite of the fact that it suffers by comparison to her previous novels, The Last Camellia was still an enjoyable read, and Sarah Jio remains on my list of must-read authors.