In Miss Julia’s School of Beauty by Ann B. Ross, Miss Julia has just returned from her honeymoon after eloping with her former lawyer, Sam, to the dismay of others in her town upset at not being invited to a large wedding. Then, a friend tells Miss Julia that the tabloids are reporting that country music star Sonny Sutton had discovered that his marriage at a wedding chapel in Dollywood was not legal because the preacher did not have legal authority to perform weddings. Miss Julia begins to fear that perhaps her own marriage might not be legal either, and she might have been living in sin! So she kicks Sam out of her bedroom, while terrified that someone in her community might learn her deep, dark secret. So Sam goes on the road to find out the truth behind their marriage.
In the meantime, the sheriff’s department, in an effort to raise money for a second dog for their K-9 squad, decides to hold a beauty pageant. Hazel Marie, the former longtime mistress of Miss Julia’s first husband and mother of his son, Little Lloyd, gets involved as organizer of the event, along with Edda May, who seems to be chasing after Sam and makes Miss Julia very jealous. So Miss Julia gets busy helping with the pageant too. But she gets even more involved when she gets a phone call from Aaron Kincaid, the false preacher, boasting that he has been called by the Holy Ghost and doesn’t need the approval of the state and threatening to tell the world the truth unless his niece wins the beauty pageant. The problem? Ashley is plain and sloppy and, even worse, has dropped out of the pageant! Thus, Miss Julia has her work set out for her, getting Ashley back into the pageant and able to win.
I really loved the previous book, Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind, so my high expectations for Miss Julia’s School of Beauty influenced my disappointment in this one. The parts about the beauty pageant were a lot of fun, but despite the fact that the book’s official description talks solely about the pageant, the majority of the book deals with Miss Julia’s concern over the state of her marriage and paranoia that someone would learn that she had been living in sin with Sam. This part did not resonate at all with me because I cannot understand why Miss Julia thinks that the fraud of the preacher casts shame on her. Her behavior related to this issue seems so strange.
I really loved the narration of Cynthia Darlow, who is so lively that she makes this book much more enjoyable than I imagine it would be reading physically. She has a terrific voice for each character, and she wouldn’t even have to name the person speaking for me to know exactly who the lines belong to. Darlow was the perfect fit for this book.
While I did not enjoy Miss Julia’s School of Beauty as much as the previous book, the author’s enjoyable storytelling style made much of it terrific fun, and though the other parts were less enjoyable, I still enjoyed this book. I certainly intend to get the next book in the series. But because of my annoyance with Miss Julia’s obsession on the state of her marriage, I give this book three stars.
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