A Southern beekeeper moves to Manhattan and causes quite a buzz in a honey-coated, hard-to-swallow romance.
Self-exiled Sugar Wallace flits from one location to the next with her bees, a blue ceramic birdbath and two gardenias in tow, but she only alights long enough to help others heal from their emotional and physical ills. But Sugar doesn’t choose each new place at random: Her queen bee, Elizabeth the Sixth, crawls around on a map and designates the next stop. Sugar’s move to NYC begins with an almost calamitous collision on her new street, but the two men involved, attractive Scotsman Theo Fitzgerald and elderly George Wainwright, are fine. When she reaches out to ensure they’re OK, Sugar’s drawn to Theo like a bee to honey, which disconcerts her. Betty (Sugar’s pet name for Elizabeth the Sixth), too, feels something and finally realizes she has more purpose in life than just being a queen bee and reproducing. Sugar settles into her new apartment building, sets up her beekeeping on the roof, and, searching for a cup of (what else?) sugar, meets her unhappy neighbors: the single-mother owner of a failing balloon shop, an anorexic girl who collects wedding announcements, an older man whose only joy is his flat-screen TV, a woman who complains about everyone, and a shy, plump baker. Sugar spreads her honey-laden products among her fellow tenants, invites them to her place and gently sticks her nose into their beeswax. She also has long soul-searching conversations with George (who becomes the building’s volunteer doorman, thanks to Sugar) and runs into Theo at the local Greenmarket. Although Theo pursues Sugar, every meeting results in some stinging misunderstanding, which sends Sugar fleeing in the opposite direction. When Sugar finally tells George what’s bothering her, Betty and her worker bees swarm into action, and Sugar learns things about her neighbors she never suspected. Southerners might not take too kindly to the bizarre portrait Lynch (Dolci di Love, 2011, etc.) has painted of Sugar and her bees as the story moves beyond stereotypical—unsophisticated Sugar always wears ribbons in her hair, concocts honeyed cure-alls for every ailment and drips with starry-eyed optimism—to farcical—Betty schemes to unite Sugar and Theo by leading the swarm back and forth between Sugar’s rooftop and Theo’s as Sugar gives chase.
There are too many points in the book that stretch the plot and characters from beyond believable to just plain silly.