First Frost (Waverley Family #2)
St Martin’s Press
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
It is almost winter and as always, it is having an effect on the Waverley women as they await first frost and the blossoming of the apple tree in their backyard. The Waverley’s are special, each possessed of a specific gift. The entire town knows it and can use it if needed or ignore it at will.
Claire Waverley has always been able to inject emotion into the food she bakes. She used to run a catering business but now produces sweets of two varieties despite the toll it is taking on her personally and her family. It’s taking up more and more of her time and causing her to become withdrawn. When something threatens Claire and her entire existence, she will have to learn that she can turn to others, turn to her family for help and not have to deal with things alone.
Claire’s sister Sydney has wanted something for so long but it seems as though it’s never going to be. She wants to give her wonderful husband a son but as the months and years tick by she grows further despondent and further desperate. Sydney was always the one who wanted to be ‘normal’, the one who wanted to leave their small town behind. When she meets someone just like her, Sydney is convinced she can help….but she runs the risk of getting her heart broken.
Sydney’s daughter Bay is pure Waverley and has always embraced it. She knows where things belong and she made the mistake of telling someone where they belong. Now everyone knows and the person in question seems to be going out of their way to avoid her. As the first frost approaches, Bay spots a mysterious stranger that seems to appear and disappear – one that seems overly interested in the Waverley house. What threat does he pose and can the women find a way to hold together until the apple tree blooms?
I love Sarah Addison-Allen’s books but I have to admit, it’s been a couple of years since I read her early ones. So long in fact that when I began reading this, I didn’t realise it was connected to Garden Spells until it mentioned the apple tree in the backyard. Rumour has it if you eat an apple from the Waverley tree, it will show you the biggest moment of your life (but beware, it may not always be a good one). Fortunately, the Waverleys are all born with an aversion to apples and are never tempted. Occasionally the tree will toss apples at someone’s feet or retract its branches away so that a person cannot reach. It’s a character in itself and as soon as I read it in this book, the memories of Clare and Sydney from Garden Spells began to come back. If you haven’t read Garden Spells then I recommend you do before this one. And if it’s been a while like it was for me, a re-read might come in handy!
Sarah Addison-Allen writes so beautifully, so vividly and this book is no exception. She finds amazing ways to describe food and smells and colours so clearly it’s like you’re standing in the room with Claire as she cooks in Garden Spells or creates her boiled lollies in First Frost. Claire spent a lot of time on her own before Sydney returned and she’s used to people leaving. Sydney has stayed and Claire has married and had her own child but it does seem like a part of her is waiting for the people in her life to leave again. There are many that turn to Claire for support and advice – Sydney and Bay for example – but it doesn’t seem like Claire ever turns to anyone herself. She soldiers on, getting things done mostly on her own even when it’s becoming clear that the new candy business is taking over her life.
I loved the character of Sydney’s daughter Bay who is in her teens in this novel. She’s a member of the Waverley family, always acknowledged to be a little different but Bay is utterly comfortable with who and what she is, even with her gift. She writes someone a letter, confessing that she knows where things belong and where she feels they belong and even though it seems like she’s rejected, she deals with it really well. She’s the sort of person that chooses to dress up as a Waverley when she could dress up as anything else in the world. Given she’s still a high school student when this book finishes, I would imagine that there could easily be another book featuring Bay when she’s a bit older, if Addison-Allen was so inclined. I know I’d love to read another Bay book, to see where her life takes her as an adult and exactly what happens with her and the person she wrote the letter to.
I love that when I read one of these books, I know what I’m getting and that’s a whimsical story with a lovely setting and beautiful characters that I really come to care about. There’s nothing more comforting than picking up a book you’ll know you’ll enjoy, even before you so much as open it. This one has just a little bit of mystery to it with the stranger who arrives in town with the intention to cause problems for the Waverley women and watching it all unfold is magical. Another fabulous book from an author that keeps on delivering.
Book #13 of 2015