September 6, 2011

Review: The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Warning: This review has a huge spoiler at the end, it's hidden but read with caution.

A couple of weeks ago while on vacation I got a couple of books so I could spend the days reading because there’s no better way to spend your free time right? (Yes, I know this reflects poorly on my social life so there’s no need to mention it). One of the books I got was The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen and I liked it so much that I bought the author’s entire backlist and read them back to back. The Sugar Queen was my favorite of them all but it was also the one I had the most problems with.

Josey Cirrini lives her life devoted to two things: her mother and candies. Her mother is quite old and needs her for everything, or so she says. In reality she is a controlling and bitter woman who can’t stand her daughter’s happiness, so she controls every aspect of her life and emotionally blackmails her into doing what she says. Josey’s indulgencies are candies which she secretly storages in her closet, she know she shouldn’t eat them, especially because she is a bit overweight but she can’t stop.

One day a woman shows up in her closet, she is wet and a bit crazy, and she isn’t going anywhere. Della Lee is a bit of a free-spirit and she forces Josey to come out of her shell and start living, she makes her do everything, from getting the nerve to confess her love for the mailman to go buy her some sandwiches. When she goes to buy the sandwich she meets Chloe who just broke up with her cheating boyfriend, and they instantly click and become friends. Thus begins a story about self-discovery, friendship, love, family secrets and magic.

The reason I first got these books was because everyone labeled them as magic realism, so I was expecting something similar to Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende. What I got was the watered-down romantic novel version of that, where the magic realism gives it a charming and sweet tone instead of the grittier feel that the Latin writers give to their books. But it was equally effective and I loved it, especially because the books are set in the South and everything seem more magical there.

I loved Josey, she was a bit naïve but she was daring. I felt related to her because she had insecurities, she wanted to find her place in life, she was desperate to escape home and she wanted to be loved. I think we all have felt that way at least once in our lives. Once you see her develop a relationship with Della Lee, Chloe and Adam (the mailman) you realize that behind the insecure and shy girl hides a strong and valiant woman.

My favorite character was Chloe, and my favorite part about the story -and here is where the magic aspects comes into play- was that all of her life books were there for her, and I don’t just mean that books helped her through difficult times, I mean that books actually magically popped up when she least expected and when she needed them the most. When she was a kid and got bored a book about magic tricks appeared, when her grandparents questioned her about the immense amount of books she had, a book about how to hide things appeared, and now that her boyfriend cheated on her a book about forgiveness keeps showing up in front of her.

Just as my favorite character was Chloe, my least favorite part of the book involved her as well. This is a spoiler so please stop reading if you don’t want to know. Through the entire book we see snippets about her relationship with her boyfriend, about how passionately they loved each other, about how hurt she was when he cheated and how sorry he felt. These memories and scenes between them tried to show us that he wasn’t a bad guy and that he made a mistake but it didn’t work for me, he was an idiot, plain and simple.


Chloe’s journey is not just about trying to move on, but also about discovering herself. She realizes that she was living her boyfriend’s life even to the point of not having her belongings in their home. I was happy to see that she changes all that. By the end of the book I was sure that she was going to really move on but no, she forgives him and I honestly couldn’t understand why. She loved the guy but what he did was wrong, not to mention stupid. There’s a crazy explanation for the cheating that apparently makes it ok (basically it was a pity-fuck) and that was mindboggling to me. Why would you cheat on someone you love so much? Maybe I’m naïve but cheating is a pet-peeve of mine in romance novels and I hate seeing great heroines doing stupid things like going back to their cheating boyfriends. She was 25 years old, she had her life ahead of her and she could have found another guy, someone more deserving. This almost ruined the book for me, the only reason it didn’t was because it truly is a charming book.


Overall I think this is a book worth reading, it has a huge flaw but if you can see past trough it or maybe you are not as bothered by it as I am, then read it because at the core of the book is a wonderful and magic story that you don’t want to miss.

Review by Brie
Grade: 3.5
Sensuality: McPrude


Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds it harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother…

Fleeing a life of bad luck and big mistakes, Della Lee has decided Josey’s clandestine closet is the safest place to crash. In return she’s going to change Josey’s life—because, clearly, it is not the closet of a happy woman. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey is soon forgoing pecan rolls and caramels, tapping into her startlingly keen feminine instincts, and finding her narrow existence quickly expanding.

Before long, Josey bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who makes the best sandwiches in town, is hounded by books that inexplicably appear whenever she needs them, and—most amazing of all—has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush.

As little by little Josey dares to step outside herself, she discovers a world where the color red has astonishing power, passion can make eggs fry in their cartons, and romance can blossom at any time—even for her. It seems that Della Lee’s work is done, and it’s time for her to move on. But the truth about where she’s going, why she showed up in the first place—and what Chloe has to do with it all—is about to add one more unexpected chapter to Josey’s fast-changing life.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.
Bantam. April 14, 2009.


  1. I'm a bit miffed as well by the reason Chloe' boyfriend cheated on her. It's actually a bit absurd and I can't believe how it turns out. Forgiveness is all well and good, but we don't have to forget or be stupid. What happens the next time he feels sorry for someone? Anywho, great in depth review. I've never heard of this one before, but sounds like a great little coming of age and romance story with just enough magic to keep it interesting. Nice review. And I love how you hide your spoilers.

  2. I had to read today's post when I saw that you were reviewing Sarah Addison Allen. I love her work and enjoyed this book although, I too, was a bit put-off by the boyfriend angle.

  3. Hi Jade!
    I was so angry at her, I know that cheating is one of those cases where you don’t know how you are going to react until it happens, but ideally I would like to think that I wouldn’t act as Chloe did, because trust is such an important part of a relationship and I don’t know how you can be able to trust someone who hurts you like that. Besides, when you are in love you don’t feel the need to have sex with someone else, you might feel attracted because you are in love, not blind, but you don’t risk hurting that person and you don’t feel like sleeping with someone else! And if you do, then you might want to take a look at your relationship because something is wrong.
    Having said that, this was such a beautiful book, I do believe you are going to like it. Josey’s story was touching, Adam was a great hero even though he isn’t really one of the leads, he is more of a secondary character, and all the magic was lovely.

  4. Hi Johanna! Long time no see!
    I devoured all of her books. I still haven’t read Garden Spell because I’m saving it for latter because I didn’t want it to end LOL! She seems like one of those authors that take a long time to write a book, but I can’t wait to read the next one. Did you read The Peach Keeper? I loved that one as well, and the crappy boyfriend in that one redeemed himself quite thoroughly…

  5. I had to read the spoiler even though I plan on reading the book. I know I shouldn't but it is like telling me you have a secret that you can't tell me. Sooo...I don't like cheating boyfriends. I think it is interesting that it turns out the way it does. It's as if the author tried to add a dimension to the relationship. Relationships are hard but like you said, she's 25 and I'm assuming she doesn't have any kids. Why couldn't they just be friends? Fab review. Did you get rid of intense debate?

  6. Hi Alexis!

    You are right about the dimension thing, and maybe under different circumstances her choice would have made more sense. There a lot of emphasis made in the fact that they are meant to be but I didn’t see it that way, and as I said, she was 25 so life didn’t have to end with that relationship. And sometimes even if it is a romance, if a guy is just not right then maybe the ending would be happier without him. Let me know once you read the book what you think about it.

    Yes, I got rid of it because it was driving me insane, sometimes comments didn’t show up, some comments kept going directly to the spam folder, in some of the posts the whole thing would disappear leaving me with Blogger’s comments and I was sick of sending emails to their troubleshooting address, they were very nice but I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I lost all the comments though, I have seen blogs that kept Intensebate in the older posts and the new ones have another commenting system, buy I can’t figure out how to do it.

  7. I loved this book but you have a point about the cheating bf. That was annoying.

  8. Sarah Addison Allen writes books about real life and adds a mystical twist to her stories. She not only knows her writing craft, she has a knack for capturing the reader through her characters and the lives they live. I have read all three of her books now and she is one of my favorite authors.


Blogger likes to eat comments, so I suggest copying it before hitting "publish" just in case it doesn't go through the first time. This is a pain, I know, but it's the only solution/prevision I can think of, and it will save you the frustration of losing a comment. Also, thanks for visiting!

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The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.