Title: The Last CamelliaAuthor: Sarah Jio
Publication Year: 2013
Publisher: Brilliance Audio - Penguin/Plume
Edition: audio and eGalley
Reader: Justine Eyre (excellent)
Source: Library and Edelweiss
Date Completed: August - 2013
The first story takes place in the 1940's when Flora, a young woman from New York, with a love for plants, is anxious to help her parents out financially. She takes a job as a nanny at the Lord Livingston English manor. Her real mission in accepting the job is for the financial payoff, but she, in effect has made a deal with the devil. While acting as a nanny, she is has agreed to find and report the whereabouts of the "rare pink camellia" said to be somewhere in the gardens on the estate. Once there she is enjoying her time with the children and uncomfortable about her real mission.
Some 50 years later, Addison, a garden designer also from New York, is trying to escape her secret past. She convinces her English husband Rex, to leave New York to spend time in England at the quiet countryside manor, coincidentally Livingston Manor, which is now owned by Rexes wealthy family. Rex is a writer and agrees that the setting may be a good change for him while he works on his book. Little does he know that his wife is being blackmailed by someone from her past and she is more than happy to leave NYC behind, hoping her problem will go away. Once there, the mystery of the manor's past, at least temporarily, takes Addison's mind off what has happened in her past, but not for long.
The novel has a Gothic feel at times, and a sometimes goose-pimply sense of what dark secret will be uncovered next. I would have loved to have been wandering through those overgrown gardens and orchards in search of the prized blossom myself -- but maybe not for the same reasons. Flora, was my favorite character, she just seemed so innocent, and almost too smart at times to have gotten herself involved in such a scheme. I loved Justine Eyre as the audiobook reader - she was perfect and made listening to the book such a treat. What I didn't care for were the romantic threads that ran through the story, but I suppose, in part, they served a purpose.
There is plenty to keep the story interesting: an international flower thief ring, an old gardening notebook with hints to a mystery past and present and even some romance. Readers looking for a light summer read may find that The Last Camellia fits the bill perfectly.