By: Sarah Addison Allen
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Source: Pump Up Your Book!
Following the death of her mother, city girl Emily Benedict, moves to the small Southern town of Mullaby, North Carolina, to live with her only remaining relative, one her mother never spoke of. The relative is her mother's dad, called a giant and feared by many residents of Mullaby. She is dumbstruck from the moment she arrives, that night seeing the mysterious Mullaby Lights, and hearing tales of her mother that sound nothing like the way she remembers her. Dulcie Shelby, Emily's mother, founded a girl's school along with many other altruistic efforts that never seemed to satisfy her. She never seemed to feel as if she had done enough. According to townsfolk, Dulcie was a popular, spoiled girl who hurt others with her words and actions. Emily has a hard time believing the things they say. She meets her next door neighbor, Julia Winterson, a woman with a troubled past, who runs J's Barbecue (which was Julia's father's restaurant) when she thinks she wants nothing more than to move back to Baltimore and the "perfect" life awaiting her there. Julia's father died, leaving behind a restaurant in death, so she begrudgingly stays on in Mullaby to nurse the restaurant out of debt and sell it for a profit. On Emily's first walk to town, she has an anxiety attack, inadvertently attracting the attention of a teenaged boy who is her own age. Regardless of the weather, he's always wearing a white linen suit and bow tie. His name is Win Coffey and he claims to have history with Emily. She is inexplicably drawn to him as was her mother to Win's uncle twenty odd years ago. That particular attraction caused such an irreversable tragedy that some wonder if history will repeat itself in Emily and Win.
Sarah Addison Allen is my favorite author in what I like to call the mainstream paranormal fiction genre. What I mean is that, even people who claim not to enjoy books of a paranormal nature will find books of this kind interesting. I've previously read her novel, Garden Spells, which was her debut, and was very impressed. Though I haven't read The Sugar Queen, I haven't been disappointed so far. The magic is in the details, such as the wallpaper of Emily's room that changes with her moods and the Mullaby Lights that seem to have a mind of their own. The story stands alone, but Ms. Allen has a way of seducing you with her words. The way she describes things is a powerful gift that I can't wait to see more of.