From Chapter Five of The Peach Keeper…“… dreaming of warmer months, of kingfisher-blue skies and leaves so green they looked like they’d just been painted, as if the color would smear if you touched it.”That’s how you know you’re reading a book by Sarah Addison Allen. While you’re reading, the words create a story so real you feel like you could reach out and hug the characters. Their pain makes your eyes tear and your heart ache, and their joy makes you giddy. Sarah doesn’t just write stories about a journey that’s being traveled, she hands you a suitcase and coat and welcomes you along for the ride. And the ride is ALWAYS worth taking.The Peach Keeper is a book about friendships. About nurturing old ones, about creating new ones, about losing them and finding them, and how being true to yourself is the only way to be a real friend to someone else.In 1936, Georgie Jackson and Agatha Osgood were girlhood friends in Walls of Water, North Carolina. 75 Years later, their granddaughters, Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood find themselves in the awkward position of trying to uncover what tragedy changed that friendship, and their town, all those years ago. Awkward because they are NOT friends.Sparked by a gruesome discovery during the renovation of a town landmark, the Walls of Water High School Joker and the president of the Women’s Society Club find that not everything, or everyone, is as it seems. Willa has spent her entire adult life trying to live down the reputation she worked diligently in high school to earn. Paxton is the reluctant face of Walls of Water high society. They’ve both fallen into the daily routine of being what they think people want from them, instead of being true to themselves. It takes a skeleton, some quality time with a spunky old lady, and a little push from a “wiser than they realize” cast of side characters to put the women on the right track.I love that Sarah brought front and center the importance of embracing and preserving family history. This story is built on the foundation that Georgie and Agatha created with the strength of their friendship. I also love that Sarah’s characters are so much like people we all know in our own lives. The support that Willa and Paxton get comes from a well-rounded, engaging group of friends and family. We all know someone like Rachel, the nature lover and health nut… or Sophie, the mother who’s trying desperately to hold on to the glamour of her youth by living vicariously through her daughter.And let’s not forget the men in their lives. Colin Osgood, who’s been successfully running a business, and running from his family, returns to finish up the renovation of the historic Blue Ridge Madam. He’s also been harboring admiration for the girl Willa was when they were in school, and is surprised and confused by who she’s become. Paxton’s best friend, Sebastian Rogers, delivers a bit of confusion and surprise of his own. And not in the ways you might think. Both Colin and Sebastian have choices to make for themselves, in addition to figuring out if they can be what Willa and Paxton need. The blend of attraction, tension, sweetness, and wowza! is enough to make any romance fan swoon.So far, this all sounds very serious. There ARE very serious threads making up the fabric of this story. The town’s mysterious secrets, and the growth the characters go through are told in a very real, very thoughtful way. But one of my favorite aspects of Sarah’s writing is how she brings humor, whimsy, and of course magic, into her stories. For every harrowing moment outside the Gas Me Up, there is a Women’s Society Club meeting that reads like a scene from the movie Liar, Liar. For every unearthed murder weapon, there’s a barista who can guess your personality by your drink order. And for every uncomfortable situation the main characters find themselves in romantically… there is a happily ever after. The balance of heavy to light, heart-breaking to heart-warming, and serious to silly makes the story so much stronger.The Peach Keeper did surprise me in one interesting way. In previous books, the magical element has been a dedicated trait of one or more characters. It was also something that, to me, was lovely and sing-song-y and pure. This time, the magic in the story started as a part of the town’s past, attributed to a shady character who chose to use his charms against those who trusted him. Later, it seemed to evolve into something that encompassed the town. The birds, the trees, the clouds, the mail, even the air itself was magical. In it’s new form, the magic became the embodiment of goodness I’m used to.Speaking of goodness, we get a cameo by Claire Waverley in The Peach Keeper! I love love LOVE that she made an appearance. I really hope this is the beginning of a new trend for Sarah’s books. I know I’m not the only one who’s anxious to know what’s happening with the friends we made in Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, and The Girl Who Chased The Moon.This all boils down to the fact that I got exactly what I hoped for from a Sarah Addison Allen tale. Amazing, real characters who lived out a story that was both gripping and fanciful. I know you’ll be as enchanted by the goings on in Walls of Water, North Carolina as I was. But watch out… the air is turning white… and you just might find you have paint on your fingers.