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Laura Wharton's Julia's Garden

Foodie Lit

Landscape designer Lily McGuire has to take over a big landscaping job after her boss unexpected, perhaps suspiciously, dies. Lily then has to follow the clues about a long ago disappearance, a buried brooch and an unusual collection of toxic plans! Author Laura Wharton told me, “As I plotted the storyline, I wanted the garden to mirror the characters, who are not at all what they seem, as Lily McGuire finds out.”

Lily McGuire doesn’t want to take over the landscaping job of her now deceased boss, Macy, The estate is in the historic Norton-Grace estate, in Columbia, SC. This feeling increases after a strange man shows up in Lily’s office and gives her a 1940’s garden journal, which he says killed her boss and best friend. The journal belongs to Julia Norton, daughter of the original owners. This connects Lily to Julie’s disappearance, her buried brooch and her unusual collection of toxic plants—a mystery perfect for a landscape architect to solve!

Still coping with her divorce and womanizer ex-husband, now single mom Lily is prickly and not trusting. She trains hard as a black belt in judo, keeping people at an arm’s length, especially co-worker Jack Chapman.


Lily and Jack begin to piece together the mystery of the disappearance of Julia and the brooch she has hidden in the garden.  Lily and Jack go to real life restaurant Sweet Potato, with its fabulous Southern recipes. (See the Sweet Potato Pie recipe that Chef Stephanie Tyson generously shared with us!)


“Some say a garden is the keeper of the gardener’s soul,” Laura writes. Julia’s family garden is beautiful and also dangerous. Lily’s gardening love and skills puts Julia’s garden right, solves several mysteries, heals a father-son relationship and begins to weave an interesting bond with Jack. The future is unresolved as the book ends, no doubt waiting for the next book in the series!

Family and romance secrets emerge from the past. The mystery solved but Lily and Jack’s relationship remains unresolved.

And what is the ideal relationship? Laura draws this from personal experience, “My parents had the ideal relationship. My

father, who passed away last fall, put my mother first in everything he did, and my mother put him first in all she did for all of

their 60-plus years of marriage. They were partners in the truest sense of the word.  Frankly, this kind of relationship is extremely rare."  Let’s wait for the next in the series to see where Lily and Jack's relationship goes!

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