Spring Fever

The New York Times bestselling author of Summer Rental delivers her delicious new escapist novel about small towns, old flames, and deep secrets

Annajane Hudgens truly believes she is over her ex-husband, Mason Bayless.  They’ve been divorced for four years, she’s engaged to a new, terrific guy, and she’s ready to leave the small town where she and Mason had so much history.  She is so over Mason that she has absolutely no problem attending his wedding to the beautiful, intelligent, delightful Celia.  But when fate intervenes and the wedding is called to a halt as the bride is literally walking down the aisle, Annajane begins to realize that maybe she’s been given a second chance.  Maybe everything happens for a reason.  And maybe, just maybe, she wants Mason back.  But there are secrets afoot in this small southern town.  On the peaceful surface of Hideaway Lake, Annajane discovers that the past is never really gone.  Even if there are people determined to keep Annajane from getting what she wants, happiness might be hers for the taking, and the life she once had with Mason in this sleepy lake town might be in her future.

CHAPTER ONE

From her seat in the sanctuary of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Annajane Hudgens wondered if there had ever been a more flawless day for a wedding.

Spring had arrived spectacularly early in Passcoe, North Carolina. Only the first week in April, yet the dogwoods and azaleas were already burst into bloom, and the weeping cherry trees lining the walkway to the church trailed fingertips of pale pink onto a blue and white carpet of violets and alyssum.

It was as if the bride, the equally flawless Celia Wakefield, had somehow managed to will perfect weather. Or perhaps she’d specified blue skies and color-coordinated bursts of blooms in one of her famously precise memos. If anybody could do that, Annajane mused, it would be Celia.

Could there be a more beautiful setting? Baylesses had been getting married at the Church of the Good Shepherd for nearly two hundred years. Not in this grand sanctuary, of course. The original church was a quaint, stoop-shouldered gray granite affair, with uneven oak floors, a single Gothic- arched leaded- glass window above the altar, and two rows of ten primitively wrought pine pews built by black laborers from the casket factory in Moore County, twenty minutes down the road.

Annajane could remember sitting beside her best friend, Pokey, in the Bayless family pew after countless Saturday- night sleepovers, back when they were both still in pigtails. By then, Pokey’s grandmother had already started her slow descent into senility, although Annajane had not known that. Miss Pauline, for whom Pokey had been named, seldom spoke, but she was content to sit in church on Sunday mornings and smile and nod to the hymns, dabbing at her cataract- clouded blue eyes with her ever- present handkerchief and patting Annajane’s hand. “She thinks you’re me,” Pokey would whisper, giggling at her grandmother’s confusion and grimacing and holding her nose when Miss Pauline passed gas, which she did frequently.

When the “new” Church of the Good Shepherd was built in the early ’90s, with reproduction Tiffany stained- glass windows, solid cherry pews, and a custom- built German pipe organ, the old church was renamed the Woodrow Memorial Chapel in memory of Pauline Woodrow, who died in her sleep the year Pokey and Annajane turned fourteen.

Annajane’s own wedding had been held in the chapel, the one concession her new in- laws made to what they considered Annajane’s “quaint” ideas. Since she’d paid for the wedding herself, she’d insisted on having an intimate affair, just family and close friends, fewer than forty people, with Pokey as her only attendant. It had rained the November evening of her nuptials, and at the time she’d considered it wildly romantic that the loud thrum of the rain on the church’s tin roof threatened to drown out the wedding march played on the chapel’s original wheezy pump organ.

Had it been only five years ago? Sometimes she wasn’t sure any of it had really happened at all, that it wasn’t something she’d just remembered from a long-ago dream.

Today’s affair was nothing like Annajane’s modest wedding. The sanctuary was at capacity— beyond capacity, if you went by the county fire code, which said the church could hold five hundred people. It seemed to Annajane that every living person who had ever known or done business with the Bayless family, or even just sipped a bottle of their Quixie cherry soft drink, had crammed themselves into one of the polished wooden pews beneath the soaring exposed rafters of the imposing Episcopal church.

Annajane felt her eyelids droop now. It was too warm in the church, and the scent of the lilies and roses banking everything that didn’t move was overpowering. She’d had almost no sleep the night before, and not much more sleep the night before that. And, yes, she’d had herself a good stiff drink, Quixie and bourbon on the rocks, back at the house, after she’d finished dressing and before she’d left for the church. She closed her eyes, just for a moment, felt her chin droop to her chest, and the next moment, she felt a sharp elbow dig into her ribs.

Pokey had managed to wedge herself into the pew. “Wake up and slide over!” she ordered.

Annajane’s eyes flew open, and she looked up, just in time to see Sallie Bayless, seated in the front row, two pews ahead of them, turn and shoot Pokey a stern look of warning. Sallie’s gleaming auburn hair shone in the candlelit church. She was sixty- four, but still had the dewy complexion, sparkling brown eyes, and slender figure of a woman twenty years younger. Now, those eyes narrowed as they took in Pokey’s tardy and disheveled appearance.

Pokey gave her mother a grin and a finger wave, and Sallie’s head swiveled back around, eyes front, head held high, the Bayless pearls, a double strand, clasped firmly around her neck.

Annajane offered an apologetic smile to the elderly woman to her right. The woman frowned, but begrudgingly inched aside to allow the new arrival to be seated.

As usual, Pokey Bayless Riggs took no notice of the stir she’d caused. She’d been causing a stir nearly every day of her thirty-five years, and today, her brother’s wedding day, was no different.

The boatneck collar of Pokey’s expensive new red silk jacket had slipped off her right shoulder, exposing a leopard- print bra strap and an unseemly amount of cleavage. Little Clayton was two years old, but Pokey was still struggling to lose her baby weight. She’d managed to pop one of the jacket’s rhinestone buttons, and the tight silk skirt had somehow twisted around so that the zipper was now in the front, rather than on the side. She was bare- legged, which was a scandal in and of itself, but now Annajane noticed that her best friend had ditched the Sallie- mandated sedate dyed-silk slingback pumps in favor of a pair of blinged-out silver flip flops.

Pokey’s thin, poker-straight blond hair had already lost its beauty-salon bounce, and now hung limply on either side of her full pink cheeks. Her lipstick was smeared. But her eyes, her amazing cornflower-blue eyes, glinted with mischief.

“Busted!” Annajane whispered, not daring to look at her best friend.

“Christ!” Pokey muttered. “This is so not my fault. I couldn’t find a parking spot! The church lot’s full and the whole block is lined with cars on both sides of the street. I had to leave the Land Rover clear down the block in front of the gas station and run all the way here.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be up there with your mom and everybody else in the family?” Annajane asked. “I mean, you are the groom’s only sister.”

“Screw that,” Pokey said swiftly. “I refuse to make nice with that woman. Mason knows I don’t like her. Mama knows it too. I’m taking a moral stand here.”

“Who the hell are all these people anyway?” she asked, glancing around at the packed church and zeroing in on the bride’s side of the aisle. “Not family, right? Since poor lil’ Celia is an orphan, and the only family she could produce is that elderly great aunt staying over at Mama’s house. Did Celia charter a bus or something?”

Annajane shrugged. “You’re apparently the only person in Passcoe who doesn’t think that Celia Wakefield is the best thing since flush toilets and sliced store-bought bread.”

“Don’t give me that. You hate her as much as I do,” Pokey said under her breath.

“Not at all,” Annajane replied. “I’m happy for them.”

“Yippy- fuckin’- skippy,” Pokey drawled. “Happy, happy, happy. It’s fine for you. In less than a week, you’ll pack up your U-Haul and head for Atlanta and your nice new life without even a glance in the rearview mirror. New man, new job, new address. But where does that leave me? Stuck here in stinkin’ Passcoe, with my mama, my evil brother Davis, and good ole Mason and his new bride, Cruella de Vil.”

“Poor, poor Pokey,” Annajane mocked her right back. “Richest girl in town, married to the second richest man in town.”

“Third richest,” Pokey corrected. “Or maybe fourth. Davis and Mason have way more money than Pete, especially since people quit buying furniture made in America.”

“Speaking of, where is Pete?” Annajane asked, craning her neck to look for him. Instead of spotting Pokey’s tall redheaded husband, Pete, her eyes rested on another tardy couple, Bonnie and Matthew Kelsey, hurrying up the right-side aisle of the church.

Bonnie Kelsey’s eyes met Annajane’s. She blushed, and looked away quickly, clutching Matthew’s arm and steering him into a pew as far away from Annajane’s as she could manage in the overcrowded church.

Pokey saw the maneuver for what it was. “Bitch,” she said.

“It’s all right,” Annajane said smoothly. “I mean, what do you expect? Matt and Mason play golf every week. From what I hear, Bonnie and Celia get along like a house afire. Best friends forever! Anyway, Bonnie’s not the only one to sign up for Team Celia. Every woman in this room has been staring daggers at me since I walked into this church. I knew when I agreed to come today that it would be awkward.”

“Awkward?” Pokey laughed bitterly. “It’s freakish, is what it is. Who else but you would agree to show up at her ex- husband’s wedding?”

SPRING FEVER copyright 2012 by Whodunnit, Inc.

The book opens with Annajane attending the wedding of her ex-husband. Do you have any exes with whom you have maintained a relationship? Have you ever successfully rekindled a relationship you thought was long dead? Could you attend the wedding of an ex? Discuss potential gift ideas.

Annajane was never accepted by Mason’s mother, though Sallie seemed to take to Celia right away. How do you explain Sallie’s rejection of one and acceptance of the other? What does Sallie have in common with each?

Ruth Hudgens made her distaste of the Baylesses clear from when Annajane was a child and first befriended Pokey—even going so far as not to allow Quixie in her house. How did your interpretation of Ruth’s ties to the Baylesses evolve over the course of the novel? Have you ever had a friend that your mother didn’t approve of? How did you manage the situation?

Discuss the significance that the lake house at Cherry Hill held for Annajane and Mason. What parallels do you see between the house and the way it was tended to and Annajane’s relationship with Mason?

Annajane assumed that Mason had been unfaithful once she discovered the mix tape in his car. In your gut did you feel she was correct in this assumption or did you think she jumped to conclusions? Discuss the ways that their first marriage fell apart and how it could have been different. Who was at fault and how?

Mason and Davis are quite different despite being brothers close in age. How do you account for their different personalities and approaches to life and business? Does each man get what he deserves?

Do you think Glenn redeemed himself as a husband and a father? In the end, were you sympathetic to him as a person? Why or why not?

Quixie’s survival as a family-owned company was in peril at certain points in the novel. Would you have been tempted to sell? How does Quixie exemplify our current economic issues? Discuss examples of the struggles faced by local businesses and the responsibilities that companies have to their employees and the towns where they are based.

What were Celia’s motivations when it came to Quixie? To the Bayless men? Imagine and discuss Celia’s future with Davis and the rest of the Bayless family.

What role does Sophie play in Mason and Annajane’s relationship and how does her role evolve as the novel develops? If you were in Annajane’s shoes, how do you think you would have reacted to Sophie at first? Sophie’s favorite book is

“Another charmer…Andrews deftly combines a winsome love story and compelling family drama…the idyllic small-town setting and surprising twists and turns are tailor-made for laid-back summer pleasure reading.”–Booklist

“Andrews serves up a tale about love, duplicity and second chances…as tangy, delicious and sweet as an ice-cold bottle of Quixie soda.”–Kirkus

“An enjoyable escape.”–Publishers Weekly

“This one’s a keeper. You’ll want to re-read it at least once during the summer.”–Yahoo Shine!

 

FAN REVIEWS

“Wow! I instantly fell in love with this book. I laughed and I cried. As someone born and raised in North Carolina I felt like I knew those characters!  Bottom line it’s another fantastic book from Mary Kay Andrews!”

–Jennifer Bryan, Wake Forest, NC

“I loved this book! I love that most of MKA’s stories have a best-friend-who-always-has-your-back theme. Hooray for happy endings and fan contests!”
–Kelly Binfet, Moorhead, MN

“Like all of MKA’s books, I couldn’t put it down.  I wanted to know what was coming next.  This book took some turns I wasn’t expecting which was a nice surprise. As always, I look forward to the next book by Mary Kay! Thanks for the opportunity for the first read.”
–Lynn Dempsey, Enfield, CT

“As with Mary Kay Andrews’ other books, I was hooked on page one.  The mix of humor, love and scandal was great.  This was such a fun read.  I didn’t want to put it down. Boy, I am craving cherry soda right now!”
–Amy Whipple, Muskegon, MI

“I just finished reading Spring Fever and I loved it! MKA’s characters are so real, I feel like I know them all. The only bad thing about receiving this ARC is that I don’t have a new MKA book to look forward to this summer!”
–Sherry Fritzsche, Mystic, CT

“I just finished reading Spring Fever and I loved, loved, loved it!! The thing that I love about Mary Kay Andrew’s writing style is her attention detail. She gives such wonderful descriptions of the places and people. I could totally visualize the Lake House and the Pinecone Motor Lodge and wanted to be in Passcoe, North Carolina drinking an ice cold Quixie, riding in a red Chevy Chevelle! I loved Pokey’s spunk, Annajane’s determination and sweet little Sophia. I am only sad that I finished it so quick cause I want more!!!”
–Terry Braziel Sandoval, Rancho Cordova, CA

“Spring Fever is so addictive you just cannot put it down! Annajane and Pokey are like modern day Lucy and Ethel–such great BFFs. If you don’t have one, it makes you want one. If you do have one it brings that smile to your face with those special memories. As for Mason, one never, ever forgets their first love. A wonderful read! Congratulations to Mary Kay!!!”
–B.J. McElroy, Bloomington, IN

“Gawd M.K.A. you did it again!!  A witty whopper that makes my dysfunctional family seem somewhat normal?  Now that’s a story!  Take a gossipy southern town and drop in a gold-digging interloper, a manipulative mother-in-law, and sibling rivalry we can all relate to, and you have Andrews’s next best seller.  Colorful characters and lots of inappropriate behavior will have readers ready to go for a spin in the Chevelle if Annajane doesn’t come to her senses first.”
–Amy Mermelstein, Cabin John, MD

“I loved it. A fun read with characters almost as lovable as Weezie and Bebe–my all time favorites. I love happy endings! I will recommend it to all of my friends for this year’s beach read.”
–Lynn Speer, Swanton, VT

“I would like to say that I love MKA and her characters! It is refreshing to have characters, male and female, that you can relate to. The story line, drama, and plots all seem very real. As I was reading Spring Fever I liked that the situations Annajane found herself in were cases in which I can see actually happening to either myself or my friends. Thank you so much for this opportunity to read an advance copy of the book and to share in the experience of reviewing one of my favorite authors!”
–Dawn Aragon, Carson City, NV

“Once again, Mary Kay Andrews captures the spirit of the South in well-developed characters in an impeccably laid out plot. As a Southerner living in Alaska, I LOVED getting to re-experience the South, which I sorely miss, while reading Spring Fever. Mary Kay Andrews always excels at crafting complete, interesting, and unforgettable characters. Spring Fever is no exception. I am so grateful to have received the opportunity to read Ms. Andrew’s latest creation pre-publication. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help (I’ve already started the word-of-mouth chain up here in Alaska.”
–Christine Derr, Wasilla, AK

“AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME!!!! I want a Quixie! Reading MKA’s books, I forget the laundry piled high, the dishes in the sink and the errands I need to run. MKA is better than Calagon. She really takes me away! Love Spring Fever. Love MKA!”
–Laurie Koss, Mobile, AL

“Andrews has perfectly captured the grace, style and allure of all things Southern.
A true page-turner. This novel proves that forbidden family secrets die hard.”
–Lucy Emory Hendricks, North Myrtle Beach, SC

“Once again MKA doesn’t disappoint!!  I absolutely loved it!! She had me feeling the same for “too perfect Celia” has Annajane time and time again. And I certainly had a taste for some of that ‘Taste of Dixie’! Thanks for allowing me the chance to review the book. I really, really, really enjoyed it.  So easy to read and pulled me in from the beginning. I actually read it in one day!!
–Jennifer Harper, Charleston, WV

“I am a huge fan of anything Mary Kay Andrews writes; Spring Fever was one of her best stories yet.  I love the storyline with the flash backs to the main characters earlier days.  It reminded me of my younger days, and definitely put a smile on my face. I was eager to keep reading once I opened the book and didn’t want to put it down. Spring Fever is very entertaining and will not disappoint.”
–Carolyn Goff, Gilbert, AZ

“I just finished Spring Fever and it was a fast and fun read! Knowing some family- owned businesses as well as the families involved, it was very realistic and intriguing. Both being in a family and running a business is tough. When you combine the two, well, it has all the makings of a great novel, which Mary Kay has written.”
–Ellen Simpson, Lancaster, PA

“I just finished reading my ARC of Spring Fever and it was as amazing as all of Mary Kay Andrews’ books have been. Mary Kay Andrews has this great talent for painting a picture of characters so real that you feel like you know all of them personally. Mary Kay Andrews allows the reader to feel as though she is experiencing the journey with the characters. I truly believed I was on Annajane’s journey. This book was funny and heartfelt and leaves me wanting more, more, more!”
–Karin Annunziato, Saddle Brook, NJ

“Spring Fever is MKA doing what she does best–mystery, romance, humor and southern charm all rolled into one! MKA creates characters that readers can relate to and books you can get lost in. A must read!”
–Amber Campbell, Nashville, TN

“Once again, I was transported to the world that Mary Kay Andrews created and was totally swept up in the character’s lives. Spring Fever is a book that I did not want to put down. I love it when books do that to me! Andrews develops great characters that stir strong emotions for the reader, both good and bad. I loved Spring Fever and will be anxiously awaiting other books by Ms. Andrews.”
–Susan Schleicher, Brookings, SD

“Absolutely fabulous story! I love reading stories like one.  Out of all of MKA’s books, this is definitely her best.”
–Suzanne McPherson, Vaughn, WA

“In true MKA fashion, she made me feel as though the main characters were my best friends. I couldn’t wait to catch up with them every day to see what was going to happen next! I laughed with them, cried with them, and felt like I was right by their side through this journey. Loved it! Thanks for the opportunity.”
–Lynn Hardesty, Corydon, IN

“I discovered Mary Kay Andrews’ books last summer and promptly read all of them!  Since then, I have been eagerly awaiting her new book. Spring Fever is finally here, and it does not disappoint! Full of southern charm, this book will make you want to move to the south and drink cherry soda!”
–Angie Lang, Aurora, CO

“Spring Fever is the perfect vacation read and very hard to put down. Although I now live in the south, once again one of her books made me wish that I had grown up in a small southern town. What fun to have all that history and all those characters. Put on your flip flops, grab a Quixie (CheerWine) and enjoy some long afternoons with your new best friend Annajane.”
–Lisa Nelson, Gwynn’s Island, VA

“Mary Kay Andrews has done it again!  MKA has populated a world that I want to live in.  A world full of people that you love, and some that you love to hate! As a library assistant by trade, I thrill in introducing Andrews’s books to new readers.  This book will be no exception. My only complaint about Mary Kay’s books is that they have to end!”
–Jim Orser, St. Simons Island, Georgia

“There’s nothing better than a little southern hospitality served with Quixie cherry soda pop, gossip, sizzling passion and family secrets! This sizzling, sassy, drama-filled, passionate novel will surely keep the heatwave going this summer!”
–Kathleen Anderson, Browns Mills, NJ

“Another fabulous read from a fantastic writer, Mary Kay Andrews. I have read them all and they never disappoint. Fun, secret BFF missions, a handsome man, a twist or two, and good times are in store. This one’s a hit!”
–Donna Botticelli, Beaverton, OR

“Once again Mary Kay Andrews proves why she is one of my favorite authors.  The book was written in the MKA style I love and I was not let down. I couldn’t put the book down. This is a book that I will be reading again and again.  It is going on my bookshelf with all my other MKA books but I am sure it will not be sitting there for long.”
–Rachel Swicegood, Junction City, KS