The Sugar Queen

I’m always drawn to books that are set in the south, I can’t explain why. Probably due to that infamous southern charm us northerners hear so much about. I can’t help but picture ancient Colonial style mansions tucked behind a few weeping willow trees in small, yet quaint towns filled with southern belles and southern gents. The summers are hot and humid, the peaches are plentiful, and if you’re lucky a vampire will move in next door and sweep you off your feet (#trueblood). Sookie Stackhouse aside, I read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman (SUCH a good book by the way) sometime last year and completely fell in love with southern settings. Imagine my delight when I discovered that all of Sarah Addison Allen’s books are set in the south, and, even better, they’re all a little magical.

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen StarStarStarStar

Allen has a great talent for writing stories that make you feel better about yourself by the time you close the cover. Her characters always start out a little  broken and in need of direction but as their lives intertwine they help each other heal and ultimately find happiness. *happy sigh*

Josey’s family is famous in the small town of Bald Slope, North Carolina. Her father practically saved the town from extinction and turned it into the skiiers paradise it is today. However, he wasn’t around much when Josey was younger and for that she gave her mother hell. Now all anyone can remember is 9-year-old Josey who threw tantrums and broke everything in her mothers house, not 28-year-old Josey who has given up any possibility of a social life to take care of her aging mother and vie for her forgiveness (which is clearly not gonna happen). Her only joy is in her hidden closet full of sweets, her lucky red cardigan, and her 5-second interaction with the handsome mailman each day. Josey wakes up one morning to discover a strange woman living in her closet, a woman that refuses to leave, a woman that just might help her learn to live.

Chloe has just had her heart broken; her boyfriend, the love of her life, slept with another woman. Now she’s stuck, alone, in his apartment, surrounded by his things, trying to move on. Chloe also has a special relationship with books, rather, they have a special interest in Chloe. Books appear to her when she needs them most but when Finding Forgiveness keeps popping up on her nightstand, in her car, and in her cereal box, she threatens to throw it in the toilet. Fate (or rather Josey’s closet fairy-godmother) pushes Josey and Chloe together, and as their lives overlap and their stories intertwine they help each other find forgiveness.

While The Sugar Queen has a few paranormal oddities (Chloe’s phantom books and Josey’s closet fairy godmother… among others), it’s a completely character driven story, the magical aspects are simply accepted as a normal part of life in Bald Slope. If we’ve learned anything from my past book reviews it’s that characters can make or break a book – these characters deserve 5 stars. I loved how every character was somehow tied to the others, their story was complex but you get to see it from every view point. They delve in and out of past and present family secrets, discovering that while they can’t fix the past they can change the future.

All of the characters were loveable, even Chloe’s scumbag cheating boyfriend (who I really wanted to hate). I found myself rooting for them to reunite while at the same time rooting for Chloe as she delved into an independent life. I smiled every time Josey chose to do something for herself rather than sacrifice her own happiness for her over-bearing and unforgiving mother. I wanted her to find happiness, I wanted all these characters that I had grown so close to in the span of 200 pages to find a happy ending. This book, like many of Allen’s other books, ended too soon. If you’re looking for a feel-good story that won’t take too much time or effort, this is it.

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