I have long been a fan of the Miss Julia books. Recently, however, I was disappointed with the last book, Miss Julia Paints the Town, and so when I heard there was a new Miss Julia on her way, I felt like maybe I’d hate it. I’ve been shucking off series here and there that haven’t kept my interest (for instance, I haven’t read a Diane Mott Davidson mystery in a long time, nor did I make the leap to Jan Karon’s new Father Tim books despite enjoying the Mitford series immensely until the last couple). Still, I never flat out quit reading a series until I give it a fair shake, so I decided that I would read the latest Ann B. Ross offering, Miss Julia Renews her Vows, and see if Miss Julia was worth continuing.
***SPOILER ALERT: If you are just starting out with this series, you may find information contained herein that will tell you what happens later on in the books. Be forewarned that you may want to stop if you don’t want to know what happens with the characters in future novels.
I started the book earlier this year, snagging a copy on sale at a local bookstore as soon as I saw it was out. I read the first chapter and thought, “Oh jeez” and put it aside. The book begins with Miss Julia breaking the news to her considerable social circle that Hazel Marie and Mr. Pickens have gotten themselves hitched. Hazel Marie is embarrassed to have the word come out at the same time that she has to announce she is pregnant with twins, as she knows the town gossips’ tongues will be wagging about her eloping and being in a family way. Miss Julia arranges to have a luncheon and concocts a story to cover Hazel Marie and JD’s “extra-curricular activities.”
As I started reading all this, I was like, “This is so unnecessarily complicated!” The charm of the Miss Julia books, for me, come in thinking about a very proper old lady who gets thrown into circumstances in which she has to act against a lifetime of rules she has invented about what good breeding entails in one’s behavior. But let’s face it, Hazel Marie is Miss Julia’s dead husband’s former mistress. No one expects that Hazel Marie is necessarily a paragon of virtue, no matter how she acts now that she is somewhat “reformed”. Add to that the fact that Mr. Pickens is married 4 times now and there’s really not much to worry about.
Fortunately, however, Ross strays away from this story line as Miss Etta Mae Wiggins calls from the police station and pleads with Miss Julia to come down and bail her out, as she is being interrogated, suspected of bashing in the head of one of her clients. Meanwhile, Miss Julia’s pastor has invited Pastor Fred back to conduct marriage enrichment classes, which Miss Julia’s husband, Sam, agrees to attend in support of the church. Both these events send shockwaves through Miss Julia’s household, and she does her best to help Etta Mae and avoid Pastor Fred at all costs.
Both of those parts of the book showcase Miss Julia at her finest. This was not even close to my favorite Miss Julia book, but it was good enough that I was inspired to continue reading the series for now. I’ll be glad in the next book to find out if Hazel Marie gives birth to two girls named Lillian and Julia, as I suspect she will, or if Ross has something else up her sleeve. 3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads.com
Miss Julia Renews her Vows also fulfills my last requirement for the What's In a Name? Challenge by giving me a title with a title in it, the title being “Miss”. To sum up, I read:
Body of Water: Your Oasis on Flame Lake (Lorna Landvik) (review here)
Food: Leftovers (Laura Wiess) (review here)
Music: Secrets from the Vinyl Cafe (Stuart McLean) (review here)
Place Name: Moloka’i (Alan Brennert) (review here)
Plant: Columbine (Dave Cullen) (review here)
Title: Miss Julia Renews Her Vows (Ann B. Ross)
There is not one book I read for this challenge that I did not like. I think I got lucky with this challenge, since ever single one of them was excellent and I was able to use many of them to cover other challenges as well. Many thanks to Beth F. for hosting the challenge and I’m pleased I was able to complete it, although I’m not sure I used a single book in my sign up blog entry as I planned to!
It also is my second selection for the TwentyTen Book Challenge as a “New in 2010” title selection. I have only 3 books left, 1 each in the categories of To Be Read, Bad Blogger, and Older Than You, and I have roughly 3 months to complete it! I think I’ll get there.