The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio (+ Massive Giveaway!)

My destiny is in your hands. 

About The Last Camellia by Sarak Jio: 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?

My two cents

While many will be familiar with the meaning of the different colours of roses, or the violet, or carnations, did you ever think of the camellia? I've never even given it thought. According to the Victorian language of flowers, the camellia flower means "My destiny is in your hands" ... how intriguing to build a historical fiction mystery around a flower ... so ominous!

1803: In an English countryside, an old woman is hiding away her husband's obsession: a camellia plant bought for mere sixpence. This the Last Camellia, a variety called The Middlebury Pink, a magnificent saucer-sized white flower with pink tips which blooms once in a blue moon. Prized in the Queen of England's gardens, when a storm decimated her gardens, flower thieves went on a rampage to find this specimen in the countryside.

2000: Fleeing a mysterious past, New Yorker Addison moves with her husband, Rex, to Livingston Manor in the English countryside. Recently acquired by Rex's family, Addison becomes enamoured with the gardens, particularly the camellia trees. The old housekeeper Mrs Dilloway, who has lived there practically all her life, is hiding the sad past of the estate and its owners. One day, Addison comes across a scrapbook detailing all the camellia varieties in the garden, with some strange codes ...

1940: With her family's New York bakery struggling to make ends meet, a desperate Flora agrees to find a rare flower with the hopes of making enough money to help her aging parents. On the boat to England, she meets with her employer -- unknowingly she agreed to work for a ring of flower thieves to locate the Middlebury Pink -- and a handsome stranger whom she becomes smitten with. Flora ends up in the estate where the camellia is located, in the guise of a nanny. She stumbles upon the mysterious circumstances surrounding the tragic passing of the children's mother ... and more.

The mystery deepens in these two women's lives, the story flipping between these two eras,  uncovering their secrets, and revealing the secrets surrounding the last camellia.

***

So engrossing! I couldn't put this down and read this in just a few days! I was expecting this to be mainly historical fiction but was surprised that it was a mystery through and through. And it's the best type of mystery because things are revealed slowly, deliberately, and suspensefully. 

This is a rather complicated story and there are multiple mysteries coming to the fore. But I never felt it was complicated because the writing flowed well, the characters were intriguing, and the build up was really well done. 

Likewise, I found the the flipping back and forth between two eras and two storylines quite easy to follow ... that's quite the feat as this device sometimes tends to confuse rather than illuminate. 

Uh-oh: If I could quibble on one thing, I found myself shaking my head at the quickness of the relationship that blossomed between Flora and Desmond. With the back stories and personalities of all the characters so well thought through, I felt that the lack of build up of this particular relationship stuck out like a sore thumb.

Verdict: I couldn't put this down! A romantic, suspenseful historical fiction multi-mystery cutting across two generations surround a stunning rare camellia. Highly recommended as a summer read ...

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About Sarah Jio

Sarah Jio is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Blackberry Winter, The Violets of March, and The Bungalow. She has written thousands of articles for magazines such as Glamour, SELF, Health, Redbook, Cooking Light, O, The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day and many other publications. She lives in Seattle with her husband and their three young children.

Connect with Sarah at her website, Sarahjio.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.


Giveaway Time!
Want to read this? It's your lucky day!
The publisher, Plume, is giving away 5 paperbacks of The Last Camellia!
(US/Can only)

Check out the full tour here
I received a copy of The Last Camellia through TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.


Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Plume (May 28, 2013)

15 comments:

  1. I have loved Sarah Jio's work since I read The Ciolets of March. Though I was promised this to review from her publishers it never arrived so I would relish the opportunity to win one from you and TLC Book Tours. I'm glad you liked the book even though there was that implausible part of falling too deeply too quickly. :)

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  2. Sounds excellent! I would love to win a copy, but even if I don't I plan to keep my eyes open for it at the bookstore and library!

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  3. Do you write books Nicole ? You have a way with your reviews that lead me to think you do or that you would be an awesome writer some day.
    After reading your review this sounds like such a wonderful read . Thank you for introducing another great author to me !!

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    1. Hey it's Aloi, owner of this blog. I made a mistake on the "leave a comment" and put in the wrong author name ... of course The Last Camellia is written by Sarah Jio, not Nicole Galland as stated. Sorry folks!

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  4. Historical fiction is something I have enjoyed since high school (a long time ago.) This sounds really good and something I would have a hard time putting down.

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  5. I love flowers but do not know anything about them other than the fact they need water...lol. Thank you for the giveaway!!

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  6. I just discovered Sarah Jio. I really enjoyed The Violets of March & would love to be included in this giveaway. Thanks so much for letting me know about it!

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  7. I entered your giveaway.
    It would be great to win a copy of The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio.
    In response to your requirement to
    Leave a comment or question for Sarah Jio. My question is What is your favorite book And Why?
    Thank you for having this giveaway!!!!!!!

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  8. I am a fan of Diane Chamberlain and on her Facebook page, her readers said that Sarah Jio had a similar style and that Diane's readers would enjoy Sarah's books as well. My question for Sarah would be similar...What authors has she read that are similar in style to hers? Or who are her favorite authors?

    Thanks for the chance to win, I've heard great things about this book! Stopping by from Feature & Follow, congrats on being the featured reader. I am following via bloglovin. Here's my FF post-hope you'll follow back.

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  9. Sounds like I better read this.

    I know I've said this already but I'm seriously in looooove with your header. I may have to say that a zillion times more before I feel as though I've fully expressed my adoration for it.

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  10. I have to admit that I've never thought about the camellia much at all. I think I'd love learning the language of flowers, and I love that there is really a mystery in this story as well.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

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  11. I love Sarah Jio and would love to read this one. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  12. It sounds REALLY good. I have never read a book by Sarah Jio, but I did pick up one of her books at the BEA. I most likely will be reading all her books.

    THANKS for sharing.

    Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved August Edition. I am in the list as #36. My book entry is below.

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    My Book Entry

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  13. OK, this sounds really intriguing. I like multi-layered and complicated, and I like historical fiction.

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  14. Historical fiction is my favorite. This one sounds like a good one!

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