Published by Penguin Group, Plume on January 1, 2013
Genres/Lists: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
The last week has been absolutely crazy thanks to two papers and a whole lot of coffee. My brain was on overload and then, thankfully, I received some book mail from Rebecca @ Love at First Book. She has an uncanny ability to always send me just what I need when I need it and The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio was no exception. A combination of light and fluffy but with an actual plot, I read the book in two days in between paper writing and it offered the respite I needed.
In a nutshell, The Last Camellia is a mystery novel that takes place in two different settings (present day and 1940’s) but in the same location. Present day Addison’s past is catching up to her and so she convinces her husband to skip across the ocean to Livingston Manor. The manor’s key feature is its orchards, and in particular the camellias. Once there, she starts to uncover the mystery of several young women who died during the 1940’s and tries to figure it out while dealing with her own demons.
Then there’s Flora, who was hired as a nanny for the Livingston children but, really, she was hired to steal a very rare camellia called the Middlebury Pink. She arrives at the manor around the time that women are disappearing and doesn’t quite know what to make of the Livingston family. The whole place is a bit depressing after the recent (and questionable) death of Lady Anna, the mistress of the estate and lover of all things flowers.
At this point the book was a solid 4 stars. Naturally, there’s some love thrown in and manor living is predictable (snotty kids and gossipy servants). Most of the characters weren’t fully developed but I was able to gloss over that part, too. But then I got to the end and it plummeted. Now, I’m not one to judge a book by its ending just because I don’t like it, but I do have a problem with unfinished endings. And unfortunately, The Last Camellia left me confused and pretty irritated. Sure, I can speculate about what happened but I really have no idea. It’s not that it was complex, but rather that it seemed like the author had a page limit and rushed to stay under it. Honestly, 2 more pages would have fixed the whole problem.
The worst part about this ending is that I loved the author’s other book, Violets of March. Plus, Jio has another book that’s probably good but I’m hesitant to pick it up now. The same thing happened with Lucinda Riley, who wrote one great book and one so-so book, so now I’m torn on whether to read her third. So if you’re looking for an easy read, then you may as well pick this one up and read all but the the Epilogue. Maybe then you won’t be irritated like me!