This mystery starts off as a contemporary tale of a befuddled landscape architect in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Lily has had her ups and downs (most recently more downs than ups). She has her hands full with a huge project she really didn’t want to tackle. It was left for her to finish when her best friend — and the firm’s owner — died of a massive heart attack. Add to that a guy in the office who ticks her off royally, a hateful ex-husband, and a son who is about to set the world on fire and leave Lily way behind, and there’s a story set to take off in a seemingly downward spiral for Lily.
The project shows itself to be more challenging and dangerous when a disheveled-looking man shows up at Lily’s office bearing a special, possibly deadly, gift.
Lily is beginning a new life after her divorce with a lot going for her. She has an interesting career, loving son and friends both new and old. As the story unfolds, she is lured into a mystery that only she seems to be able to unravel. In the meantime, she may discover that she is ready to open her heart to new possibilities. Another well written and entertaining novel by Laura, I am looking forward to Lily’s next mystery!
Wharton does a great job of intermingling
What a delightful story and combination of romance and mystery. The combination of fiction and facts are a treat, Laura does a great job of intermingling the two. Lily, I look forward to your next adventure!
~ Linda Proctor, North Carolina Reader
A fast paced plot, good twists and turns
“In Julia’s Garden” is the perfect blend between Mystery, Romance & Gardening.
If you feel preference for any of those genres, this book is perfect for you!! A fast paced plot, good twists and turns, an unsolved mystery, beautiful landscaping and complex characters make this book highly enjoyable. The Author has an easy way of describing characters, situations and gardening, that once you start reading it’s almost impossible to put it down. Obviously this book forms part of a series, because despite that the crimes and mysteries are solved, the romantic/personal situations are left open. I hope to see more of Lily & Jack. Recommended to all fans of the genre.
~Romorror Fan Girl (Julia)
Historic Garden at Center of Long Unsolved Mystery in New Novel
In Julia’s Garden is the first book in Laura Wharton’s new series of mysteries featuring Lily McGuire, a forty-something divorcee who works for a landscaping design firm in North Carolina. Lily’s current project is the landscaping of a historic home and garden in Columbia, South Carolina, a project she sort of inherited from her late boss, Macy, who died of a heart attack before the project was completed. Now, months after Macy’s death, when a grubby old man unexpectedly shows up in Lily’s office, hands her an old diary, and says it caused Macy’s death, Lily doesn’t know what to think. The man leaves as quickly as he arrived, leaving Lily with more questions than answers and a curiosity that only reading the diary will satisfy.
The diary belonged to Julia Norton, daughter to the original family who owned the historic Norton-Grace and its surrounding gardens. But Lily is disappointed at first when the journal seems to be nothing more than the memories of a teenage girl around the time of World War II who enjoyed a lot of parties. What could it have to do with Macy’s death? Lily’s coworker, Jack Chapman, sheds light on the matter after he takes the diary, without Lily’s permission, and reads it. Lily doesn’t like Jack’s behavior, but she appreciates his information when he tells her it’s a well-known mystery that Julia disappeared about the time the diary ended, and what became of her has never been solved.
Lily now has even more questions than answers. How did Julia disappear? Who ripped out the last two pages of the diary that might have provided clues to the answer? And again, what does any of this have to do with Macy, whom everyone thought died of a heart attack until now?
Unfortunately, Lily has other things to do besides solve a decades-old mystery. She has karate class to attend, as Jack reminds her, though she declines the offer of a ride there. Lily isn’t overly fond of Jack, not exactly thrilled that he started attending karate with her, and now she suspects he has romantic interests in her as well. He’s not her type, and Lily doesn’t want him to get the wrong idea, but when he soon asks her to go out with him, she finds herself giving in, while making it clear they are only going out as friends. She can’t get involved with him because, among other reasons, “He was what I call a granola, the kind of guy who rides his bike to work, takes little notice about his appearance—which is usually sloppy—and talks about moving to Seattle all the time.” But her snarky thoughts toward Jack are also largely due to Lily’s own hard feelings toward her ex-husband and her unwillingness to be hurt again.
After Lily gets a little drunk at a restaurant and Jack brings her home and acts like a gentleman, her opinion of him slowly starts to change, and she soon finds herself glad to have him at her side as more clues come together to solve the mystery of Julia’s disappearance—a mystery that leads Lily into danger. Mystery readers and especially those in love with gardening will enjoy this book because Julia’s diary passages are filled with discussions of plants that eventually lead Jack and Lily to the clues they need to solve the mystery of her disappearance all those decades ago. And before the mystery is solved, Lily and Jack will unearth family and romantic secrets from the past as well as a treasure. When it’s all said and done, the novel brings about a satisfying end to the mystery, but not to Jack and Lily’s relationship. It will take another mystery—or more—in the series, I suspect, for that situation to be solved, and it would be a crime really, not to give it time to develop.