Mary Kay Andrews returns with another book just begging for a beach chair. SPRING FEVER has it all --- love, broken hearts, forgiveness, a little drama (well, a lot of drama) and, most of all, second chances.
The novel begins in a stifling church at a standing-room-only Southern wedding in Pascoe, North Carolina. Annajane Hudgens and Pokey Bayless Riggs, best friends since age five, are squeezed into a crowded pew waiting for the ceremony to begin. Pokey is pregnant again, and Annajane is counting the days until she leaves Pascoe. As the perfectly coiffed, size 0 bride starts down the aisle, the groom, Pokey’s brother Mason, looks not at her but right back at Annajane, prompting Pokey to loudly stage whisper, “He is so not over you.” Just as Annajane has resigned herself to leaping up and blurting out “I object!,” a little bespectacled flower girl, having reached the altar, drops her bouquet, clutches her stomach, looks at the groom, cries “Daddy!” and passes out.
"Suffice it to say that with the first day of summer looming, and a beach chair or hammock beckoning, there’s no better way to get your summer reading started than by catching a little Spring Fever. You’ll be lost at the first chapter and probably won’t look up again until you finish, having thoroughly enjoyed the escape provided by this excellent summer read..."
Thirty-five-year old Annajane is getting ready to rebrand herself and start over. She is getting off the bus, making a new plan, hitting the road and getting out of Dodge, which in this case is Pascoe, a small town dependent on one industry: Quixie cherry soft drink. The main employer in town since 1922, Quixie is a regional company that has been on the verge of either national breakthrough or small town failure for some time. It is Pascoe’s sole claim to fame and the only lifeline its residents have; most of Annajane’s life has revolved around it.
Annajane’s mother, Ruth, never allowed Quixie in the house. Annajane didn’t know if it was because her father was killed by a drunk driver in a Quixie truck when she was barely two, or if Ruth felt inferior to the Bayless family, always saying “They think they’re better than us and everybody else in town.” Annajane’s wonderful stepfather, Leonard, works at the Quixie plant, but this doesn’t keep Ruth from refusing her daughter the sugary drink; Annajane never even has a sip of the sweet cherry soda until, at age five, she attends Pokey’s birthday party.
The party featured bone china, sterling silver, tiaras and boas for each girl, as well as a special individual bottle of Quixie commemorating the day. Annajane had never tasted anything so delicious in her whole life and quickly drank three bottles. From that day on, Annajane and Pokey were joined at the hip, to the consternation of not only Ruth but also Pokey’s mother, Sally Bayless. Annajane knew she would never measure up to the standards of the elegant, silver-haired woman.
In high school, Pokey got them jobs working at Quixie, and Annajane spent her summers filing, organizing contest entries, and even wearing the Quixie Pixie costume in the local parade. From time to time, Pokey’s brothers, Davis and Mason, would show up on hiatus from college or business school. Annajane and Mason always had an affinity for each other, and at one extremely hot Pascoe parade, he “rescues” her in his Chevelle convertible after a group of boys stole her drink cart and her blistered feet left her on the curb. This occasion turned into a series of dates and a summer romance. True to the nature of such relationships, upon returning to their separate colleges, Mason eluded all communication; after a semester, Annajane put him out of her head and heart.
At NC State, Annajane earned a marketing degree. After graduating, she worked a series of short-term jobs in Raleigh but eventually, out of options, headed home to Pascoe and Pokey. Pokey attended college on the six-year plan but never quite got her sheepskin. At a Chapel Hill fraternity party, she fell in love with Pete Riggs, a likable young man from a very wealthy Charleston furniture family. Pokey got pregnant and they married, settling down in Pascoe. Thrilled that her best friend has come home, Pokey quickly sets up an accidental encounter between Mason and Annajane. Old flames are rekindled, and six months later, Annajane is the Assistant VP of Marketing at Quixie and engaged to the handsome Mason, who unfortunately spends most of the first years of their marriage out of town with his father trying to build up Quixie’s business.
After one such business trip, Annajane finds proof that Mason has been cheating on her. She resolutely refuses to forgive or forget, and their marriage ends in divorce. Before the divorce is even final, Mason turns up with a baby he claims to have fathered but after they were separated. Annajane sees the girl, Sophie, on her frequent visits to Pokey and cannot help but be enchanted by her. She becomes a surrogate aunt, and Sophie becomes one of the linchpins that still connects Annajane and Mason. Annajane continues to work at Quixie, which also puts her in constant contact with her ex. But Annajane is finally done with Pascoe and Quixie. A job with an advertising firm awaits her in Atlanta, as does Shane Drummond, a slightly younger bluegrass musician who wants to marry her the minute she hits town.
There’s just one last thing Annajane has to do to tie up all the loose ends of her life in Pascoe, and this is what she’s doing when the book opens: attending the wedding of her ex-husband to the perfect Celia, a wealthy entrepreneur who hit town to “consult” for Quixie and has ended up taking both the company and Mason. She is exactly the type of daughter-in-law Sally has always wanted and gets along a little too well with the rather greasy Davis. She knows that with the reading of Glen Bayless’ will (five years after his death), a lot of big decisions will have to be made by the family members holding the company stock.
Sophie’s sudden appendicitis halts the wedding, sending Mason and Annajane rushing with her to the hospital, thereby setting off a chain of events that seems destined to see them back together. But can Annajane ever forgive Mason for his infidelity --- both during their marriage and so quickly after? Can she somehow save Quixie and Pascoe from the greedy hands of Davis, Celia and Jax Snax? Will Celia quickly reschedule the wedding before Mason gets away from her? Why does Ruth really hate Sally so much? Were the sins of the father laid upon the shoulders of the son? There are lots of juicy story lines throughout the book, and one more word mentioned will ruin at least half of them for the anxious reader.
Suffice it to say that with the first day of summer looming, and a beach chair or hammock beckoning, there’s no better way to get your summer reading started than by catching a little Spring Fever. You’ll be lost at the first chapter and probably won’t look up again until you finish, having thoroughly enjoyed the escape provided by this excellent summer read and the small world of Pascoe, Annajane, and a groom who is not hers.
Reviewed by Jamie Layton on June 8, 2012