Published by Bantam on March 22, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism, Romance
It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather and once the finest home in Walls of Water, North Carolina—has stood for years as a monument to misfortune and scandal. Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite Paxton Osgood—has restored the house to its former glory, with plans to turn it into a top-flight inn. But when a skeleton is found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, long-kept secrets come to light, accompanied by a spate of strange occurrences throughout the town. Thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the passions and betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover the truths that have transcended time to touch the hearts of the living.
The Peach Keeper is Allen’s fourth novel, but only my second of hers. I read her first book, Garden Spells, last year and positively adored it. This one definitely did not disappoint and has convinced me that all of Allen’s books will need to make their way into my personal collection at some point. Even though I do not normally care for southern fiction (ironic that, being a southern girl myself, Allen does it perfectly. The fact that the stories are set in the south both do and do not define the stories (which I realize is super unclear, but I know what I mean). The characters do not drawl everything, but there is a southern-ness that I can’t really explain.
What makes Allen’s work shine amongst other chick lit books out there is the magical realism. There is always an element of magic, not the Harry Potter kind, but magic all the same. It’s a magic that, as the term suggests, is accepted as natural, and really does seem to be. The magic has a subtlety and possibility to it that makes me really want to believe that the real world is Allen’s world.
Plus, there’s the romance. I do not read too much chick lit anymore. At some point, it just stopped actually striking me as particularly romantic or believable. Allen’s romances are quite simple. They don’t try to surprise you too much; you know who’s going to end up with whom, which frankly you pretty much always do. Again, the delightfulness of the romance stems from the sheer cuteness and the chillness of it. There is no bodice ripping or exuberant sex scenes, and yet you can feel your heart do little happy skips. Or maybe that’s just me.
Although I think I preferred Garden Spells a bit overall, I still loved reading The Peach Keeper. I highly recommend Sarah Addison Allen to fans of chick lit and to people who really want to believe that love and magic really exist.