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Sarah Addison Allen's version of the South is a lovely place -- bright sunshine, fruit, flowers and the ghosts of the past (sometimes literally).

So you can guess what her fourth novel, "The Peach Keeper," is absolutely soaked with. It's a lush, summery little novel that spins together buried secrets, ghosts, magical realism, romance, and a decades-old mystery. But at heart, it's the story of two young women's struggle to find their place in the world.

The Blue Ridge Madam -- a mansion in the North Carolina town of Walls of Water -- once belonged to Willa Jackson's family, but they lost it when her grandmother was still a young girl. All her life, she has been haunted by this. Now the derelict mansion is being transformed into a high-class country inn by Willa's old classmate, Paxton. Paxton is slowly crumbling under the weight of tradition and family expectations -- as well as her love for her possibly-gay friend Sebastien.

Then Willa and Paxton's brother Colin find a skull buried near the house -- and it turns out to be Tucker Devlin, a devilishly charming salesman who had magical powers and claimed to have peach juice in his veins. Willa begins to unwind the past to find out what happened to Tucker, and discovers some shocking connections to her family past...

When you summarize it, "The Peach Keeper" sounds like a magical-realism murder mystery, or maybe a lightweight ghost story. However, it's not really either -- there ARE ghosts, and there IS a mystery of sorts. But Allen is much more interested in the closeted skeletons of Walls of Water, and in the troubled young woman who need to find their own place in the world.

Her prose is sweet, sunny and full of luscious sensual moments -- smells, delicious food, beautiful clothes, and a sort of misty Southern prettiness. Even in the more plotless moments, Allen's prose draws you into her little world. But she also weaves some tense moments into it, such as when Willa finds a drunk Paxton being harassed by a couple of jerks.

The only problem is that Allen doesn't explore the magical realism angle enough. The "magical, stormy nature" of Tucker and the things he could do -- as well as the ghosts -- are touched on but never a major part of the story.

But her characterizations are uniformly brilliant. Willa and Paxton are both young women who are lost -- one has always felt like an outcast from her own life, while the other desperately wants to escape the "perfect" life she has always led. Romance helps them find their places, with the elegant misfit Sebastien and the charming wanderer Colin.

"The Peach Keeper" is a lot like a peach itself -- velvety, sweet, soft and pleasing to the senses. A truly enchanting little novel.
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Having been the first book I have read by Sarah Addison Allen I was unsure what to expect from her book by looking at the cover it gave the impression of a very gentle and fresh read. Based on the cover it wouldn't be one of the books that would shout out to me from the shelves but I was about to learn the age old lesson again of not judging a book by its cover.

The author manages to create a charming if somewhat quirky town which made for a great setting for the book. The book centre's around two main characters, Paxton and Willa whose personalities are two worlds apart. I found I connected with Willa right from the start of the book but it took a while for some of Paxton's barriers to come down and to get to know her a little more before she became a likeable character. What I loved about the book is seeing relationships and friendships slowly developing, it was quite different to most romance books to not feel the rush of a relationship developing everything was set at a beautiful pace.

I loved the mystical feel to the book it is very carefully written without being over done which gave a real enchanting feel to the storyline. I did find the book was overly predictable but I did still enjoy the storyline I just think with a little bit of suspense it would have made the perfect book. I found it a very quick and easy read with it only being 273 pages long and each chapter short enough to be able to pick up and put down easily without losing the flow of the book. Any of you who were lucky enough to get a kindle for Christmas you will be happy to know this book will also be available as an e-book.

I would like to read the authors first book Garden Spells to see if the suspense element is in this book. This book is well worth a read if you are looking for a laidback easy read with a mystical feel for a fresh change.
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VINE VOICEon 18 January 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Sarah Addison Allen is an author I've being meaning to read for a while, but until now just hadn't got round to. After reading The Peach Keeper I can firmly say that I plan to get hold of her back list sooner rather than Later.

Set in a small Southern US town it tells the story of two generations from two closely linked families. In the present Willa and Paxton are about to make shocking discoveries about their Grandmothers, all the while struggling with their own personal problems. I LOVE stories about old family secrets so this book was right up my street and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the ones in this book.

However I also really loved the modern day story, which just like the past, is one of friendship. Sarah Addison Allen has a beautiful and addictive writing style which totally involves you in her characters. I read this book in just one day and was completely hooked.

After reading many other reviews of the authors previous books I was expecting a magical element to the story and looking forward to it. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't as apparent as it seems in other novels and is only very subtly hinted at. This makes the book perfect for those who enjoy something more realistic and certainly didn't turn me off the book completely. If I hadn't been anticipating anything magical it wouldn't have been an issue and I still thought this was an excellent book. All in all I'm glad I got round to finally reading this author and would happily recommend this book.
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VINE VOICEon 13 December 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The tiny town of Walls of Water, North Carolina, has been home to logging wealth for generations. But Willa Jackson, the only remaining member of one of the most prominent families, now makes a living for herself running a sporting goods store, and has no desire to be associated with her past. Meanwhile, Paxton Osgood, another scion of the famous families, buries herself in family and town lore, ignoring her personal problems to become an image of a perfect society daughter. Their grandmothers were - and in some ways are - best friends, but these two women couldn't be further apart. Enter the restoration of the Blue Ridge Madam, Willa's family's hereditary house, and Paxton's pet project. When a skeleton is dug up underneath the peach tree, the women can no longer avoid each other in their mutual quest for their family's histories.

I've made a point of reading all of Sarah Addison Allen's books since her first one, Garden Spells, captivated me many moons ago. Unfortunately, either I'm changing or her books are - I just wasn't really feeling the magic on this one. Her prose is still delicious and the touches of fantasy she adds to every day life as charming as always, but the characters in this particular book didn't strike a chord with me. While the story's plot is made to sound somewhat exciting, I actually found most of it rather predictable bar one small bit at the end, and the way the characters would end up from the start is obvious.

That isn't something that normally bothers me; you are hearing from a girl who regularly enjoys romance novels right now, after all. I'm perfectly fine with a generally predictable ending. I suppose what bugged me here is that the entire book is that way, from the plot to the friendships to the romances. And those romances, I had a hard time believing in; they happen too quickly, and one is especially absurd, at least from my perspective. I didn't find the heartwarming book I was seeking here.

It was a fast read, with a nice atmosphere, as I would expect from one of her books, and I had a fine time reading it, but I was ultimately disappointed in The Peach Keeper. I hope Allen's next book will be a bigger hit with me.
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VINE VOICEon 24 May 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've only previously read one book from this author, Garden Spells, and loved it, so I had high expectations of this book. While I enjoyed reading it, it did disappoint me somewhat. I didn't find it pulled me in quite as much as that one.

The plot was ok enough, it has all the ingredients to make a good novel - mystery, romance, friendship, humour - but although it was a fun read, it just didn't hold my attention and it took me a while to finish it. I liked the main character, Willa, but most of the other characters just annoyed me in one way or another and Willa's friendship with Paxton Osgood - the local socialite - didn't ring true for me. It felt a little forced.

I guess I'd recommend it as a filler read in between other meatier books, or maybe something for the beach, but if you're new to this author then I'd recommend picking up Garden Spells instead.
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VINE VOICEon 25 April 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"A place where secrets run thicker than fog..."

Willa Jackson's family once owned THE loveliest house all of Walls of Water but that was then, and this is now. Willa's family no longer own that house or the reputation and legacy of the logging wealth that comes with it and it is one that Willa knows only too well. She wants to escape from it and be free to live her life away from her ruined legacy, and as the last remaining there of her family, she opens up a small Sports store that it she is clearly proud of.

Willa is not the one who wants to escape their past and ruined legacy, we come to know Paxton Osgood who wants to break free from the convention but at the same time she conforms to it by immersing herself in the town and all its stories, secrets and history and being the image of a 'perfect daughter'. But just as Willa and Paxton both want to be free, they are forced to come together when Paxton discovers a secret under the peach tree during the restoration of Willa families legacy of their former home which unities the 2 of them in a quest for to discover the truth and their history which more than entwine...

Explored through some supernatural and magical elements which at times do not stay coherent or fit within the confines of the story, often off at a tangent, Allan fails to hook you you in. After the main part of the story is out you are left waiting for more, which never happens. Sad as it had potential to be really good but just lacked momentum that her other books have had. She failed to hook me in this time but hopefully she won't next time :)

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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 January 2012
This little mystery with a hint of magic is light and easy to read.

Willa Jackson has returned to her hometown in North Carolina after her father died and is living a sensible life, making amends for her wild youth. Across town, her old classmate Paxton Osgood seems perfect and in control to everyone, but this is only an image she tries to maintain, while her life is a mess and she is definitely not in control of her feelings for her possibly gay best friend Sebastian. Paxton and her twin, rebellious brother Colin have bought and are renovating the Blue Ridge Madam, a historical mansion that used to belong to Willa's family before the depression, when a skeleton is discovered in the property. These four lonely old classmates are brought together by a seventy-five year old mystery and the realization that at the age of thirty their lives are not what they expected at all. As they investigate the mysterious skeleton, they discover themselves, understand their grandparents' history and forming strong friendships, they take they lives in their own hands and defeat the ghosts of the past.

Once again Sarah Addison Allen delivers a well written coming of age story with a touch of magic. The plot is interesting with beautiful descriptions and the four main characters are very real and likable. However, too many things are happening in this book and some parts of the plot are a little underdeveloped. Similarly, the secondary characters were a little underdeveloped as well, which was disappointing considering that in her previous novels, the author created excellent secondary characters.

This novel is marginally magical realism, and the magical element seems a little forced. Magic in Sarah Addison Allen's books is found everywhere, it is vividly felt through the senses, but sadly this time, the smell of peaches in the air or the taste of coffee were just not strong enough to affect the reader.
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on 24 January 2012
I enjoy this author's work and so I was looking forward to this book immensely. However, I was disappointed because the characters were two dimensional. The romances happened so fast and the pairings were so predictable that there was very little anticipation. The magic, which is what the author is known for, was missing throughout the book - I am reminded of the writer's adage "Show, don't tell" but in this case there was far too much "tell" and not enough show. At one point all the ladies at a function start to blurt out secrets but I did not know why - something they ate, drank, what set it off?
I found that I didn't like or care for any of the characters. I loaned the book to a colleague because she, like me, was looking forward to the latest title by this author, and she felt the same as I did. I will still try the next novel but hope that the author recovers some of the strange, uplifting magic that permeated the earlier works.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Secrets never stay hidden. They demand to be heard, to be let free - at whatever cost.

Walls of Water, a small community in North Carolina, is a town of secrets. Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood are drawn into the secrets of their grandmothers when Paxton determines to help restore Blue Ridge Madam, the antebellum house of Willa.

Sarah Addison Allen's novels are, as devotees know, full of magic. However, I feel that this is the best - I'd call it more magic-realist, as although the magical elements are still there they are less intrusive although still hauntingly omnipresent.

I loved it - read it!
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on 6 March 2012
Sarah Addison Allen's books all stick to an established formula: they're all set in North Carolina, all in small towns where far too many people know one another's business, generally feature at least one character from the wrong side of the tracks, and all have a thread of the supernatural running through them. They're light, quick and charming reads, but I couldn't help feeling, in this case, that the same old bucket had maybe gone to the same old well at least one too many times. It's likeable, but I've read it all before. In addition, the supernatural element here feels clumsily tacked on and out of place.
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