For having been on a vacation last week that entailed very little sitting, I’ve been tearing through a fantastic list of books on my Kindle. This week, I want to share two books that are perfect escapes.
First Frost is a story of two magical sisters, Claire and Sydney Waverley, their equally magical daughters (Mariah and Bay), a temperamental house and a cantankerous apple tree. Sarah Addison Allen returns to Bascom, NC to pick up the story of the Waverley sisters ten years after we last saw them in her book Garden Spells.
Claire, with the gift of affecting a person’s moods or feelings via the flowers she uses in the food she prepares, is no longer catering, and instead making hard candies (and herself miserable in the process). Hairdresser Sydney, whose gift with hair can either turn your day around or affect how others perceive you, is anxious to have another baby… and her hair is turning redder and redder in the process. Fifteen-year-old Bay has the uncanny gift of knowing exactly where things belonged, and like the rest of the Waverley women, is considered…strange. Awaiting the first frost of the season – at which time their cranky apple tree will bloom for the season and bring its own magic – has everyone on edge.
Add in a mysterious stranger who seems to vanish as quickly as he has seen and with less than honest intentions, and you have all the fixings for another imaginative tale!
I devoured First Frost, and as usual, it left me digging for my other Sarah Addison Allen books!
Which leads me to The Dress Shop of Dreams: A Novel by Menna Van Praag…whose writing reminds me of Sarah Addison Allen, so high praise in my mind, indeed!
Menna Van Praag has also written a tale filled with characters who possess their own kind of “magic”. Etta Sparks is the owner of the Dress Shop of Dreams – a wonderful store filled with dresses she has created in every color of the rainbow. The shop itself possesses a wee bit of magic – its silk draped walls change colors with the seasons, and music, reflective of the customer, comes on as each customer comes through the door. Etta’s own special magic is that her with a few stitches of her needle in red thread, these dresses allow the wearer to see their heart’s true desire.
Her granddaughter Cora is studious, unromantic and practical. A scientist whose life is her work and who has little time for anything else other than her visits with her grandmother and to the bookshop next door where she fails to see that the owner, Walt, has been in love with her since they were kids. Walt’s secret is that he has taken a radio job as a Night Reader, reading books on air for listeners, and his gift is that his voice arouses memories in the listener.
Cora’s parents, also scientists, died in a tragic fire when she was little and she is driven to learn more about how they died. She works to learn more with Dylan, a detective with uncanny ability to know whether someone is lying or telling the truth. Dylan is drawn into the mystery but he has a story of his own to tell.
Tired of seeing Cora overlook a chance at true happiness, she takes a chance to work her magic, first on Cora and then on Walt – but magic doesn’t always work the way you want it to.
The book has many wonderful and well-developed characters, and their lives and stories all intertwine. It is a mystery, a romance and has twists and turns along the way, and while it doesn’t work out in the way you might expect, it ends as it should.
This book is a treat! So pour yourself a cup of tea, plate up a few cookies to nibble on, find a sunny corner to curl up in and enjoy!
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