Sweetly by Jackson Pearce is a companion novel to Sisters Red, which I read earlier this year. It's a loose retelling of "Hansel and Gretel." Siblings Ansel and Gretchen are driving cross-country after being kicked out of their home by their stepmother. When their car breaks down in a tiny South Carolina town, the only local citizen who welcomes them is Sophia, the beautiful young proprietor of a confectionery shop. As Ansel and Gretchen make themselves useful around the shop, they learn some of the town's darkest secrets. Young women have been steadily disappearing . . . and some locals blame Sophia. Through a friendship with a somewhat reclusive young man, Gretchen learns the truth behind the girls' disappearances -- and solves a mystery from her own past, as well. Can she stop more young women from disappearing, or will her efforts be too little, too late?
Of the two books, I have to say that Sisters Red
was the stronger work. My problem with this book is that I didn't find a
single character likable. Ansel was a flat nonentity, Sophia a bit too
much of a stereotypical femme fatale. Gretchen struck me as both whiny
and clueless, and her romantic counterpart, who was probably supposed to
seem mysterious and brooding, instead came across as sullen and
uncooperative. The plot dragged a bit in the middle as Ansel and
Gretchen cooled their heels at the chocolate shop, waiting for something
to happen. Also -- minor spoiler -- equating the "witch" from the
original story with the werewolves from Sisters Red
didn't work for me, and having Gretchen constantly refer to the
werewolves as witches reinforced my opinion of her as a clueless
airhead. I also feel that it weakened the bond between this retelling
and the original Hansel and Gretel story.
I'm sure many readers, particularly fans of this author, will love this story. It just wasn't the best book for me.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)