The Waverley house is a bit magical, showing its appreciation and disappointment and fears towards the Waverleys by denying entry, or showing off its assets in the best light, or giving up a secret or two when needed. The house is more of a secondary character in this book, which adds some humor and plot to the story that was started in book one with the garden.
After an article appears in Southern Living magazine, Claire Waverley's homemade candies become a rabid success. She doesn't have time to cater parties, which was her previous business, or even make dinner for her family because she's so busy filling candy orders and all the other tasks that keep her business growing her daughter's college fund. She hasn't told anyone, including her husband Tyler, or even admitted to herself how much she misses her old life before she became famous.
Claire's sister's daughter, Bay Waverley-Hopkins, is now a teen and has fallen for a boy at her high school--someone who doesn't know she's alive and someone her mother hopes never will. Bay works for her Aunt Claire after school, along with Buster, a culinary student from Orion College, a new character who adds to the fun in the Waverley household. Bay knows she belongs with this boy she knows from high school, just like she knows where everything belongs, which is her Waverley gift, but convincing her parents, and the boy, is not going to be easy!
Evanelle Franklin is aging and now lives with her companion Fred. They keep each other company and have a deep, loving friendship. Evanelle doesn't know why Fred is with her but she's glad for his company and pushes him to date again so he'll be emotionally happy. She still feels the need to give people things they don't know they need, which is her Waverley gift that is rubbing off on Fred since he wants to be just like her. These two are adorable together.
Claire's sister Sidney is married to Henry Hopkins who adopted Bay after they got married. Sidney is feeling lost now that Bay is almost grown up and desperately wants a baby. The more she tries, the crazier her life gets. As a hair stylist, Sidney's gift can make everyone's day better with a new cut, unless she's nervous and anxious, then something may go terribly wrong.
All the Waverleys are edgy because first frost is near. Weird things always happen before first frost. The tree knows it's coming too. If you don't know about the tree, read book one to get the scoop...it's so funny. A mysterious old man keeps appearing and disappearing in the Waverley neighborhood. Claire is sure something big is about to happen. And she's right.
Coming of age amongst a bunch of strange adults with problems of their own and being a Waverley isn't easy. Bay knows she's strange and unpopular and accepts it. But a dare gets the best of her common sense so she tempts fate to show her peers that there is nothing to the rumors. That's the day everything changes. Right before first frost.
I really enjoyed reading FIRST FROST after I got used to all the changes in the family. Not quite as much as GARDEN SPELLS, but not because one was necessarily better than the other. After I thought about what I loved most about both novels, I think it's similar to the fresh excitement of a first date. There's no way a second date can be as magical as the fresh prospective of first impressions, the laughter and the sweet innocence of goodbye with hope for more. That's the difference for me between the two books.
GARDEN SPELLS is special because it was my first experience with author Sarah Addison Allen's lovely style which is innocent and magical. It made me giggle. FIRST FROST is special because it's more of the same with a few more twists, hearty laughter, some tears over joys and disappointments, along with a beautiful ending. Read both, they're great together, each having its own nuance that is special. If you haven't read GARDEN SPELLS, you won't get lost reading FIRST FROST, but I think you'll miss some of the magic that makes them so cohesively good when reading them back-to-back.
FIRST FROST is a charismatic addition to the Waverley family story. I love the way Sarah Addison Allen's mind works. Ms. Allen's playful attention to detail while enhancing and messing up her characters' lives is loads of fun. A sweet romance with a small town ambiance that includes eclectic characters, a good dose of humor and unexpected enchantment, FIRST FROST is charming.