I am grateful to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, a delightful novel of froth and whimsy and - quite literally - a 'charming' read. It's the story of the people of Bascom, North Carolina, a small town where 'gifts' run in families, and where the secret abilities of the Waverley women have made them particularly well known. Cousin Evanelle can anticipate people's needs, little Bay has the uncanny knack of always knowing where things belong, and Claire solves problems with food.
Claire Waverley is a caterer, but no ordinary cook. She understands the influence her dishes can have on the people who eat them, and the power of the flowers and herbs grown in the old garden of the family home. Do you have nervous, overly talkative guests? Serve lemon verbena. Does an issue require clarification? You need squash and zucchini blossoms.
The self-sufficient but insecure Claire finds her carefully controlled life changing when first she meets her new neighbour, Tyler, and then her runaway sister Sydney returns to Bascom. Claire's remedies will be needed as never before as the sisters confront their family history and their unique heritage and try to find happiness.
If you have ever wiggled your nose like Samantha in "Bewitched", hoping you too could do magic, then this book is for you. With a house that's sensitive to moods and an apple tree with a mind of its own, the reader has to be willing to suspend disbelief, but if you're interested in the curative properties and power of plants and you like a good yarn, especially of the adult fairytale variety, you will be enchanted!
And if you want to know what to do with rose geranium wine, you'll have to read the book (the paperback is due out in May)