A historical mystery that spans over 60 years, told from the alternating perspectives of two young women: Flora in 1940 and Addison in 2000.
The setting is an old English manor with a very special garden and orchard. The camellia of the title is a rare and valuable botanic specimen which flower thieves desire to steal and sell, but there are far more sinister stories hidden in the closed-off rooms of the historic manor house. Jio opens the story with a prologue written at the English cottage in 1803 to establish the significance of the special flower, then moves to New York in 2000, where Addison, formerly Amanda, is being spied on and stalked by a sinister villain named Sean who threatens to expose some past transgressions to her new husband. Her husband, Rex, is a sweet young man from England whose family has recently purchased the estate and asked him to come out and help plan renovations. She decides that trip to England might be the best way to escape the spooky attentions of Sean. Then the narrative flashes back to Flora’s story in 1940. Flora also travels from New York to the manor, where she will work as a nanny to the children of the strange, strict and touchy widower who lives there while she conducts an undercover search for that valuable plant for another sinister stalker who recruited her with the promise to pay off her parents’ debt (the “or else” being what usually happens to poor folks who find themselves in debt to bad guys). Questions are continually raised, and most are ultimately answered, in this collection of intersecting stories.
The images of the flowers, the landscape and the manor house are vivid and make for a tantalizing read.