Sarah Jio’s debut novel, The Violets of March, introduces readers to Emily Wilson, a writer who has spent several years at the top of her career and in love with life, but who years later finds that she is struggling with the end of her once perfect marriage, and having a devil of a time writing her next book. Mourning the end of her relationship, Emily goes to Bainbridge Island for a long overdue visit with her vivacious but temperamental Aunt Bee. There she finds secrets, a new story to uncover in a decades old mystery awaiting completion, and the keys to mending her heart.
Jio presents nothing less than a page-turner with her inviting characters, enticing storyline and gorgeous setting. Sign me up please for a home on Bainbridge Island! Emily, and the accompanying characters are warm and accessible. The reader feels for Emily as she tries to find her footing at a difficult time in her life. Aunt Bee is an intriguing character with all of her reluctance to discuss the past juxtaposed with the strong need to have her family nearby. Most of the supporting cast, including Aunt Bee’s best friend, have their own secrets that are tied to what happened on the island in 1943. Secrets that they insist Emily must uncover without their help.
The Violets of March is so good, suspenseful and so thoroughly charming that its simple and direct writing only enhance the sweeping effect of its story and characters. Seeing Emily’s growing up on the island and how she changed along the way was particularly rewarding, and the perfect foil to learning some of the secrets of the island and how they tie-in to the present day inhabitants.
Jio navigates perfectly the delicate balance of delving into the past and keeping the reader engaged in dual narratives via a mysterious diary that makes its appearance in Emily’s room on the island. This was a very suspenseful read – heartwarming as well as romantic. Highly recommended for readers looking for a captivating and refreshing mix of mystery and romance.