But also beware that’s about all you’ll get. I had great fun with Garden Spells (GS) and my impression is that Sarah Addison Allen took all the elements that worked then, put them in the mixer, and voilà! A new novel!
Josey is a sort of local celebrity, the only child of the visionary who turned Bald Slope, North Carolina into the thriving sky resort it is today. She was a difficult child, spoiled, rude and tantrum-prone and now at 27 she’s trying to make up for that time… but no one will let her forget. Least of all her bitter mother, to whom Josey dedicates her life, submissively keeping her company at the cost of her own independence.
One day Josey finds Della Lee Baker, local waitress and occasional prostitute, hiding in the closet where she secretly hoards sweets, travel magazines and romance novels. Della Lee is running away from an abusive boyfriend and decides that closet was the place to be until further notice. Over time she also becomes a sort of “fairy godmother “ to Josey, guiding her in her frail relationship with her mother, and encouraging her to act on the secret love she’s nurturing for the past 3 years (!!!).
The comparison with her earlier book is unavoidable and makes this one feel formulaic and hurried. Just like GS, the themes in The Sugar Queen are also the courage to exit your comfort zone, the magic in day-to-day life and self-forgiveness. Even certain plot details are recycled. For instance, there’s this family in Bald Slope who has a particular trait: they can’t break a promise. Just one family with a magical trait (an element alien and disconnected to the rest of the story), while in GS it happens to a whole community.
Another character – Chloe - is chased by books. At critical moments in her life, certain books just pop up out of no where. Sounds like fun, but I didn’t get the feeling Chloe was particularly fond of books, they were just useful, teaching her how to buy a house and fix a tap. Also, I didn’t appreciate that when Chloe’s boyfriend cheats on her, the books that show up are “Finding Forgiveness” and “Old Love New Direction”. No kick-ass book about independency or moving on… but a book about how SHE can forgive HIM.
Basically, it’s not the perfect book and the spectacular twist a predictable, BUT, sometimes one craves for fluff, just like one craves for Ben & Jerry’s Cake Batter.
It still got me hooked with the fairy-tale atmosphere Sarah Addison Allen masters, and the way she describes relationships: everything is intense, meant-to-be, explosive! I also really like the way she always shows both party’s POV - wouldn’t it be fun to know what Mr. Darcy was thinking throughout P&P?