Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lesley Anne Reviews: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Vitals

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Page Count: 273
Genre: Contemporary; Magical Realism
Target Audience: Adult
Series: Standalone
Source and Format: Bought; Hardcover

Summary (From Goodreads)
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 during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town. 

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

Notes on The Peach Keeper
The Peach Keeper was one of those books that absolutely did not leave me alone until I finally gave in to its relentless charm and read it. The initial draw for me was the understated elegance of the cover - the floating peach blossoms, the cover girl's top knot, the lace camisole, the peach tree perched on a hill. And then every time I went to a bookstore, The Peach Keeper would show up on a display table, or would instantly stand out to me while browsing the shelves, batting its eyes at me, like it was just begging me to buy it and take it home. And then, one cold February day at 2nd & Charles in Augusta, I did that very thing. I brought a used copy of The Peach Keeper home with me for a measly $2.50. And I am so glad I did.  

One thing you should know to give you a little context for this review is that this book had a winning formula for me from the very beginning. Three things that top my favorites list are (1) Old Southern homes, (2) The mountains of North Carolina, and (3) PEACHES. This book has all three of these things and more. Add in the fact that I was in the mood for something on the lighter side when I picked this up, and The Peach Keeper really just hit the sweet spot for me. 

So what's this book about, exactly? To describe it in one sentence, it's one part mystery, one part romance, and another part about discovering who you are. Sarah Addison Allen has created a vivid fictional town in Walls of Water, North Carolina - a place steeped in history and tradition, with the old Southern cottages and the Women's Society Club, contrasted with the modernized downtown scene where one of our main characters, Willa Jackson, owns a sporting goods store and coffee shop. Walls of Water is a place I can absolutely imagine in my head, and it's a place that sounds eerily similar to a town I visit in NC every summer. I loved this element of the book. Growing up in the South myself, I can say with certainty that Walls of Water fits right in.    

Not only was The Peach Keeper my first Sarah Addison Allen read, it was also my first experience with magical realism. I didn't know what to expect when it came to the magical realism element, but I have to say I was a little disappointed on this front. I honestly think my preconceived notions were a little out of line, since I was expecting more of the magic and instead got more of the realism. Which totally is my fault, and I will have to read more books in this genre to see what a better expectation of the magic to realism ratio should be. But I did appreciate the sprinkling in here and there of magical elements, like party invitations showing up at random, or food that changed people's mood, that made this book more than just another contemporary romance.

I think what I loved most about this book was the strong bond of female friendship between Willa and Paxton's grandmothers, Georgie and Agatha, that created fertile ground for Willa and Paxton to come together as friends themselves. It was awkward at first, yes, but isn't that how all friendships begin when you're an adult? I really appreciated the realistic way Allen portrayed the growth of their friendship. And don't even get me started on how much I identify with Willa on moving away for college and then coming back to live in her hometown and having to deal with the many questions and feelings that come with it. That's a whole separate post for another day. :) 

Anyway, I would recommend this book to fans of contemporary romance, who don't mind having a little magic and mystery sprinkled in. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised if you give this one a try!

Memorable Quotes
"You aren't always shown the path in life you're supposed to take. But if there was one thing she'd learned in the past few weeks, it was that sometimes, when you're really lucky, you meet someone with a map."

"Coffee, she'd discovered, was tied to all sorts of memories, different for each person. Sunday mornings, friendly get-togethers, a favorite grandfather long since gone, the AA meeting that saved their life. Coffee meant something to people. Most found their lives were miserable without it. Coffee was a lot like love that way. And because Rachel believed in love, she believed in coffee, too."

"She was smart. She was savvy. And most of all, she was Southern."

Overall Diagnosis
Get a Second Opinion
  • Angie from Angieville - "I'm telling you, there is nothing, nothing like a brand new Sarah Addison Allen book when it comes to comfort reading. You just know you're gonna get the full southern treatment, that the prose will be lighter than air, and that magic will swirl through your veins like cream in one of Rachel's red-and-white striped coffee cups."
  • Lydia at The Lost Entwife - "A bit of a mystery, a touch of magic, the charm of the setting – all these combine to make The Peach Keeper another on my list of comfort books to read on that rainy day."


  1. Love that last quote! This is in my stack of books I'm taking to the beach. Can't wait to read it!

    1. This would be a PERFECT beach read. Hope you loved it!