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Literary Friday: The Last Camellia and Morning Glory

Friday, January 17, 2014

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Welcome to Literary Friday!

This week I read two books by Sarah Jio:  The Last Camellia and Morning Glory.  I think I've read all five of Sarah Jio's novels so far.  You can read my posts about The Bungalow, The Violets of March, and Blackberry Winter by following the links.

Sarah Jio is the master at writing books with two plots, one from the present and the other one from the past, and then weaving the two together seamlessly to form a cohesive story.  Although formulaic, it doesn't really matter because Jio is the very best storyteller.

The last Camellia might be my favorite of all her books.  It isn't set in Seattle like most of her books: It's setting is the English countryside at the beginning of World War II and present-day England.

Flora, an American botanist, is sent to the English countryside by a shady conman to locate a rare camellia called the Middlebury Pink.  Thought to be the very last of its kind and stolen from the British royal family, Flora begins working as a nanny on the estate where the camellia its thought to be hidden. Her mission proves difficult on many levels: First of all, the estate has a camellia orchard, and the client who's willing to pay big bucks for the tree is a Nazi.

In the present, landscape designer Addison accompanies her writer husband to his parents' English estate where she discovers a cryptic inscription in a Virginia Woolf novel and a journal documenting the estate's extensive camellia orchard.  On each page of the journal there's a mysterious code Addison doesn't understand, and this mystery is a distraction from her dangerous blackmailer.  Can Addison trust her husband with a horrific tragedy she witnessed as a teenager?

If you've heard of Sarah Jio and want to read one of her books, I highly recommend The Last Camellia.

I must admit that I love camellias.  We have several of the dwarf variety planted in our garden, and it's the state flower of Alabama.  Here is the book trailer for The Last Camellia:

Morning Glory is set in Jio's hometown of Seattle.  This one is a bit more tragic than most of her books as the main character in the present has lost both her husband and daughter in an accident.  Ada leaves her magazine editorship in New York and rents a house boat in Seattle on Lake Union and sleeps through the night for the first time since losing her family.  Ada finds a key in the bedroom loft that opens a trunk in the living room.  Inside, she discovers treasures placed there by Penny Wentworth.

Penny Wentworth is a young  bride in the late 1950s.  Her husband Dexter is a wealthy, highly acclaimed artist who spends far too much time at his studio in town than with Penny at their boathouse. Penny is lonely, and becomes fed-up with her husband's philandering.  She befriends and falls in love with one of the residents on boat street, a man with secrets of his own.  Collin is restoring a sailboat, and he and Penny are planning to run away together. But the night they've planned their escape, Penny mysteriously disappears, and the folks living on boat street aren't talking.  They've agreed to a pact of silence that has frustrated investigators for decades.

Ada is determined to learn more about Penny and her disappearance, and when she meets Alex, she has no idea that he has a connection to Penny and the mystery from almost fifty years prior.  Told alternately from Ada's and Penny's point of views, Penny seems a bit more developed, yet Ada's depiction of Alex is endearing.  He's such a sweet, kind man, and his faith only increases his charm.  I've read that Jio is a woman of faith, and Alex's character reflects her faith in a non-preachy, yet realistic way.

I really enjoyed this  book!  It has romance and a mystery that kept my attention from page one until the epilogue.  If you enjoy murder mysteries, you'll love Morning Glory.  Plus, you can't beat the setting…think Sleepless in Seattle!  Sarah Jio actually rented a houseboat on Lake Union while she wrote this book.  the following video is a tour of the boat she rented and the neighborhood where she lived.

Please stop by next week as I feature a recipe from Morning Glory.

"Little did she know that when it comes to the bluffing game, she was up against a master.  I'll teach her a trick or two, I thought."

from Page 56,  The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

Oh, *squee*  I have been waiting for the latest Flavia de Luce mystery for months, and it finally arrived at my doorstep yesterday.  I won't get a thing done this weekend until I've read the whole thing.  I'm Flavia's biggest fan!  :D

What have you been reading lately?  Please share!

Until next time…

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. Okay, you have always added the most amazing books to my list of what I should read next BUT.... RJ, can you find me the time... please? I love all your recommendations. I try to share them with people at work since there are a lot of readers in my workplace so I know some of them are enjoying this list too.

  2. I love the trailers and the cover for The fantastic. Makes me want to pick it up just by looking at it. Thanks for sharing Ricki.

  3. I have been so very busy this week reading and joining in on new release book parties. That is what I posted about, if you'd like to come visit.
    It sounds as if I have to add another author to my list! Thanks for the great recommendation.

  4. I think I will look into Jio novels. I like the premises.

    Like the 56 too!

    Here is my post

  5. I think I've read "Blackberry Winter" and "Violets In March." So thank you for the suggestions...

    My reading? Just finished "Unspoken" by Sarah Rees Brennan. Great YA book!
    And the 1st book, in "The Lynburn Legacy" series


  6. I love Jio's books...I have read them all...and while I enjoyed The Last Camellia, the others (especially Morning Glory) I enjoyed even more.

    Thanks for sharing...and your book beginning definitely caught my attention. Here's MY FRIDAY POST

  7. Aha! I remember reading about her boathouse rental (and let me tell you that's some pricey real estate!). I think I'd enjoy Morning Glory. She does seem to love the 1950's in her novels, and I'm always amused at the research she's done about Seattle in the '50's (we have a lot of into about Seattle in the 1800s and early 1900s, but no mid-century museums). As long as people aren't hopping willy-nilly into cabs in this one, it's all good. ;)
    Seriously, though....Lake Union is gorgeous and I would cover up murder to live on one of those boat houses.
    Thanks for sharing these, and that new Flavia de Luce! YAY!

  8. Thank you for introducing me to Sarah Jio. I'll look for her books. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches sounds good too. Lots of enticing choices on your blog post today!
    Here's the link to my Friday post: BETWEEN LONESOME AND TEXAS.

  9. I'm desperate to get the next Flavia book. I adore that kiddo. That houseboat is just amazing.

  10. Yep, the house boat in Seattle made me think of Tom Hanks. :-) I've only read one Sarah Jio novel - Blackberry Winter. It was amazing! I have a copy of The Last Camilla, but my mom snatched it from me before I could read it. She loves Jio's flower books!

  11. I've heard great things about both authors but sadly have not read anything yet. Yet...
    Happy weekend!

  12. I much enjoyed reading Violets of March and Blackberry Winter. I'm going to check the library right now to see if this one is available. Currently reading Looking for Me, another of your stellar recommendations. ;-)

  13. I have had so little time to read. I am still trying to finish Songs of Willow Frost.

  14. I have never read anything by her and These two books sound great! I am definitely going to be putting these on my wish list. Thanks for being such a wonderful host and great blog friend!

  15. I haven't read any books by Jio...I'll add her to my list to read! I need to get back into doing book reviews! I did a car review today but don't think you want me to link that! hahaha! Sweet hugs!

  16. I love Sarah Jio's book. I have read the houseboat one so I am going to pick it up from the library. xo Laura

  17. I haven't read a book for years but if I were to read one it would be Morning Glory. It sounds fabulous! I am looking forward to the recipe you make from the book. Hope you are well and having a lovely weekend!

  18. I love camellias too, Ricki Jill. They are such a pretty flower. They look a bit like the rose to me.

    Hope January is treating you good.


  19. Ricki Jill, I need to read The Last Camilla! I keep hoping we'll get some snow and I'll have an exuse to curl up and sit down and read :)


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.


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