Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'The Peach Keeper': More Southern Gothic Romance from Author of 'The Girl Who Chased the Moon'
If it didn't already have a state motto -- "Esse quam videri" ("To be rather than to seem" from Cicero's "On Friendship") -- North Carolina might consider native son Thomas Wolfe's famous "You Can't Go Home Again."

Sarah Addison Allen, author of "The Girl Who Chased the Moon" (reviewed on this site) returns to this theme in her new novel, "The Peach Keeper" (Bantam Books, 288 pages, $25.00), with the new locale the fictional town of Walls of Water, North Carolina, where secrets go to die and tourists come to hike and view the waterfalls in the town's famous national park. 

Without giving away too much of the plot, this Southern Gothic, "modern women," chick lit novel centers on two native daughters of Walls of Water, socialite Paxton Osgood, of the oh, so socially prominent Osgood family, and former high school classmate of Willa Jackson. They're both 30 and they're about to plunge into relationships with two surprising men, Willa with Paxton's brother Colin, and Paxton with Sebastian Rogers, a high school classmate who's arrived in Walls of Water to take over Dr. Kostovo's dental practice. During their high school years, everybody assumed Sebastian was gay, but Paxton seems to know better.

Colin Osgood has returned to his hometown from his landscape architecture practice based in New York City to supervise the restoration of The Blue Ridge Madam, built by Willa's great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water's heyday as a lumbering center and once the town's grandest home. For years, The Blue Ridge Madam has stood as a graphic monument to scandal and misfortune, a reputation Paxton wants to erase. In her role as president of the Women's Society Club, Paxton is organizing a gala to celebrate the restoration of the house  that she is turning into a first-class inn -- and the 75th anniversary of the club. Two of the founding members were Willa's and Paxton's grandmothers, who now live in the same nursing home.   

No novel by Allen would be complete without deep, dark and hidden secrets and the biggest one is whatever happened in 1936 to Tucker Devlin, a traveling salesman who charmed the inhabitants of Walls of Water with his grandiose plans to revitalize the town, at the same time romancing the town's women.  Willa, the high school's practical joker, and Paxton, the ambitious socialite who's still living at home, were never friends in high school, but events in "The Peach Keeper" draw them together.

Willa owns a sporting goods store that has a coffee bar run by her eight-years-younger friend Rachel Edney. Most of their customers are tourists who've come to hike in the national park. Willa has succeeded in her goal of shaking off her shady high school reputation -- or so she believes. The relationships Allen portrays in "The Peach Keeper" ring true and I think men as well as women can enjoy the novel. Guys, we need to understand the opposite species --er, the opposite sex -- and books like Allen's will help!

About the author

Sarah Addison Allen was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, which is also the hometown of Thomas Wolfe. She is the author of "Garden Spells,"  "The Sugar Queen " and "The Girl Who Chased the Moon." Author's website: