Monday, April 6, 2015

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

She finally understood that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t make someone love you.  You can’t stop them from making the wrong decision.
There is no magic for that.

~Sarah Addison Allen, First Frost

Reviewed by Jeanne

October in Bascomb, NC isn’t exactly like October in other places, at least not for the Waverleys.  It’s a restless time when everyone feels itches they can’t quite scratch.  Things will settle down after the first frost, when the contrary apple tree will perversly bloom and fill the air with spring petals.  Until then, Claire will work obsessively on her new business of creating candies that bring heart’s ease or fond memories, while her sister Sydney longs for another child. Sydney’s daughter Bay has the gift of knowing where things belong and knows she belongs with Josh Matteson, one of the most popular boys in town.  Unfortunately, Josh doesn’t seem to feel the same way—especially not after the way Bay humiliated herself by giving him a note in front of his friends, proving that she’s just another one of those weird Waverleys and a girl trying to rise above her station.

The Waverleys have long had a reputation for oddness and a whiff of magic about them.  Not spells or incantations type of magic, but there’s a bit of strangeness there.  Claire works wonders with her cooking, settling feuds or igniting romance while a trip to Sydney’s hair salon can transform one’s life.  Even Cousin Evanelle has a talent:  she gives people things they don’t know they will need. 

Now a stranger has come to town, a man who seems to be taking a great interest in the Waverleys in general and Claire in particular.  He says he knows a secret, one which might destroy all that they’ve built. 

I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen’s writing when I read The Girl Who Chased the Moon.  I wasn’t sure any other book would measure up, and then I read her first novel, Garden Spells.  The blend of sisters in conflict, a wonderfully realized North Carolina setting, an apple tree which became one of my all-time favorite characters, and the lush sensory details made for a perfectly delectable story as far as I was concerned.  When I learned that Allen had finally written a sequel to that nearly perfect book, I was torn.  On the one hand, I wanted to revisit some old friends and find out how they were doing; but I was also afraid that the return visit would be a letdown.  

I’m happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed First Frost.  The magic was back though I want to be quick to point out that you don’t have to have read the first book to enjoy this one.  It’s a sparkling confection, much like Claire’s special candy; I want to linger on some of the passages to read the descriptions of love, longing, and crisp autumn days even as I want to rush through the pages to find out what happens next.  

When I turned the last page, I could have easily turned to page one and started all over.  Instead I decided to return the book so someone else could experience that Waverley magic.  I know I’ll be going back to it again.

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