Sarah Jio is one of those authors that all my fellow readers seem to LOVE. But it's taken me until now, when the release of The Last Camellia -her fourth book - is looming, to dive in. At least now I can understand the fanaticism :)
1940: Flora Lewis is desperate to help her family. As her parents struggle to keep their bakery above water, Flora is approached with a unique - if dishonest - opportunity: rumors of a rare camellia have sparked the interest of a ring of flower thieves. Flora is sent to Clivebrook, England, to pose as a nanny for the Livingston family. Her real job is to track down the Middlebury Pink and in exchange will be handsomely rewarded. The promise of much-needed funds to help her family is her deciding factor, but she never planned on becoming attached to the Livingston children. Nor had she counted on becoming involved in a mystery surrounding the estate.
2000: Addison Sinclair is trying to escape her past. When her husband's parents offer the couple use of their new country estate in England, Addison decides it's exactly what they need. As her husband, Rex, works diligently on his budding novel, Addison makes a surprising discovery: an orchard of camellias and a journal with a strange code and notes regarding the orchard. Addison and Rex soon discover that Clivebrook was home to a number of disappearances just before WWII. And the names of the missing girls match the ones Addison has found in the journal. But unravelling the journal isn't as easy as it seems, especially when the one person who can help the most isn't talking.
Jio is apparently known for her dual timeline story telling and it's a device I quite enjoy. Not only does it provide the reader a great opportunity to connect with multiple characters, but it intensifies the suspense, especially as the story progresses.
I did very much enjoy the sort of gothic undertones in The Last Camellia. My only issue with the narrative is that it could have been longer in my opinion. There were many times throughout the book when I wished that Jio would have spent more time describing a scene.
I was fascinated by the story of the camellia. I can't be too sure but I think it's completely made up, sadly. The idea of the Queen's rage over a potentially stolen camellia was pretty fabulous and would make a great story alone (yet another piece of the story I would have loved to see more of). It does seem there is a similarly named rare camellia in England, though.
The Last Camellia is a wonderfully captivating tale and one that I very much enjoyed. My first Sarah Jio will not be my last, that's a guarantee! (The Last Camellia hits shelves tomorrow.)