By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
I loved Garden Spells, so I was thrilled to learn that Sarah Addison Allen's latest novel would return to finish the story of the Waverley family. While it was pleasant to check in with the characters from the first book, First Frost fell flat, as sequels so often do. First Frost is set about ten years after the events of Garden Spells, and revisits all of the main characters from that book: caterer Claire Waverley, now ten years' married and with a daughter who seems to share none of the Waverley's magic; Claire's sister Sydney, happily married to Henry but frustrated by her inability to give him a son; Sydney's daughter Bay, now a teenager in love with the last person her mother would choose for her; and cousin Evanelle, who even in her dotage still knows exactly what everyone needs. However, while First Frost is perfectly entertaining and consistent with the prior story, it's just too... easy. All of the characters have their own conflicts, all loosely woven together to advance the central plot, and all of their conflicts are neatly wrapped up in a final culmination set in the Waverley's back garden, in the shadow of the family's mysterious apple tree (which blossoms at first frost, rather than in the spring).
This was true of Garden Spells, too -- the same narrative structure, the same neat resolution of the various plot conflicts, the final scene set in the same garden -- but the first time, it was new. The second time, it feels like a pale reflection of the first book, not as engaging, not as compelling, a pretty picture devoid of substance.
Fans of Garden Spells will be entertained, but First Frost doesn't bring anything new to the table.