Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison AllenFirst Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
Series: Waverley Family #2
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 20, 2015
Pages: 304
Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

From the New York Times bestselling author of GARDEN SPELLS comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves. It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store. Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies.  Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts. Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has. Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to … if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke? When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before.  And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost. Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

I received this book from NetGalley, the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

First Frost isn’t my first reading experience with Sarah Addison Allen. I fell in love with Garden Spells years ago after I picked it up on a whim (it was the cover that made me buy it. Speaking of covers, this one is GORGEOUS). Since then, I’ve read The Girl Who Chased the MoonLost Lake, and now, First Frost. 

I’ll be the first to proclaim that I love Allen’s writing style. As a writer, all I can think sometimes is, “It’s so hard to write effortlessly.” It’s true. Allen has these whimsical, effortless sentences that makes her work stand out in the Contemporary Women’s genre. But even though her writing style is spot-on, I found the story lackluster. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading about Claire, Sydney, and Bay ten years later. Their stories unfolded slowly–the kind of methodical storytelling that I’m used to with Allen. But something just felt …. unfinished–like there was more story to tell. I can only assume there’s another book in the works.

As far as the characters go, I enjoyed reading Bay’s story the most. Her Waverley gift is knowing where things belong. She knows that she belongs in the Waverley house … and that she belongs with Josh Matteson in some way, which causes some trouble. In the end, she’s the most rational of all the Waverley women. I also liked reading about Sydney, as she and I have similar troubles at the moment. Out of the three of them, Claire felt the most dull. She’s lost the vibrancy I felt from her in Garden Spells. But perhaps that’s the point. She’s unhappy therefore she’s lackluster.

Sometimes I felt that the side characters were more interesting than the Waverley women. Even though I thought the Great Banditti/Russell Zahler/con-man part of the plot felt a little contrived, I really enjoyed his presence in the story. I would love it if Allen made that side-story into a novel. A charitable home for wayward circus performers? There’s a great story there somewhere. I also loved that the innkeeper’s sister ran off with him for nothing more than his stories and a little care when he got older.

I have conflicted feelings on First Frost. On one hand, it was so nice reading about the bond between the Waverley women again. On the other hand, the plot (especially the climax) had me scratching my head. Surely Claire wouldn’t fall for the con that she’s not a Waverley. But again, she’s unhappy so I suppose it’s plausible. Overall, First Frost left me feeling unsettled, like I too am waiting for something to happen before the apple tree blossoms at first frost.

three-half-stars

© 2015 – 2016, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.