Miss Julia's Marvelous Makeover: A Novel

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9780143127192: Miss Julia's Marvelous Makeover: A Novel

“Yes, Miss Julia is back, and I, for one, am one happy camper.” —J. A. Jance

In the 15th installment of Ann B. Ross's bestselling series, Miss Julia must teach her cousin's granddaughter some manners--and remake a political campaign. Don't miss the newest, Miss Julia Weathers The Storm, coming April 2017 from Viking.  

Miss Julia’s adoring fans sent this novel straight to the New York Times hardcover bestseller list. But everyone’s favorite steel magnolia isn’t one to rest on her laurels. It’s summer in Abbotsville, and Miss Julia’s cousin Elsie calls in an old family debt, asking Miss Julia to teach her granddaughter how to be a lady. When the rude and unkempt Trixie arrives, it’s clear Miss Julia has her work cut out for her. Meanwhile, Sam’s campaign for state senate is in trouble. Miss Julia enlists Lillian, Latisha, Lloyd, and Hazel Marie to whip Trixie and the campaign into shape!

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About the Author:

Ann B. Ross is the author of eighteen novels featuring the popular Southern heroine Miss Julia, as well as Etta Mae's Worst Bad-Luck Day, a novel about one of Abbotsville's other most outspoken residents: Etta Mae Wiggins. Ross holds a doctorate in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has taught literature at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. She lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

I didn’t see it at the time—how many of us do?—but it all started back in January, a few days into the new year, when I felt compelled to sit down and take stock as, on occasion, I feel the need to do. So with the house quiet that morning—Sam off meeting with some local businessmen, Lillian at the grocery store, Lloyd in school, and me with time on my hands—taking stock was exactly what I was doing.

Now, I’m not talking about counting up assets and debits in a portfolio—I let Binkie, my curly-headed lawyer, take care of that—but rather, totting up the pluses and minuses of my life while hoping that they’ll balance out in the final accounting. Admittedly, I have a lot of pluses: Lloyd, Sam, Lillian, Hazel Marie. I could go on and on, but I also have a lot of minuses, like stubbornness, self-centeredness, a tendency to jump into the problems of other people—all for their own good, but still—and a certain impetuosity when action is called for.

I would like to report that, at the time of which I speak, I dwelt on the pluses and how thankful I was for them, but I didn’t. I was in a critical frame of mind, and all I could think of were the numerous times that I’d overstepped myself, blithely confident that I knew best and acting on that certainty.

Even as I inwardly cringed at the remembrance of some of my rasher moments, I could also comfort myself with the fact that only a few of them had actually made things worse. I will concede, however, that my recollections can on occasion be a tiny bit selective. But that in itself is a gift, an asset if you will, for who among us could live with our character defects constantly in the forefront?

I know I couldn’t face a day with mine uppermost in mind. I have to keep them safely stored in a mental box, opening it only when I feel the need to take stock, then quickly storing them away again.

So that’s what I’d been doing the morning after Sam had told me in no uncertain terms that he was tired of taking trips by himself and that, furthermore, he had no intention of giving up his trips. In other words, he meant for me to go with him, and right there I had to add another minus to my debit list: I was too self-centered to put his desires above my own, but I’ll tell you the truth, I did not want to go traipsing all over the world.

“But you’d love it, Julia,” he’d said. “Think of all the places we could go—Ireland, for example. Wouldn’t you like to go there? Or we could do a cathedral tour in Europe or a tour of the great houses of England. Or what about Rome or Paris?”

“Yes, and what would we have when we got back? Aching feet and a bunch of pictures with nowhere to put them.”

“Memories, honey. We’d have memories, and we wouldn’t have to take any pictures.”

“I should say not,” I said. “The thought of walking all over creation with a camera around my neck is not my idea of fun. Besides,” I went on, “I don’t fly.”

“We wouldn’t have to fly. We could go by boat. You’d like it if we went first class—dressing for dinner, strolling on the deck, meeting interesting people.”

“And suffering from seasickness the whole way, too. Oh, Sam,” I said, immediately contrite at the disappointed look on his face, “I’m sorry. It’s just that I have no desire to see the world. I like it right here, doing the same things every day. The daily routine ressures me, while constant change disturbs my equilibrium. But I know you love to travel and I wouldn’t discourage you from it for anything.”

“I know you wouldn’t, but I’d enjoy it so much more if you were enjoying it with me. And I think you would, if you’d just try it. We could start with a few short trips to get you used to being away. We could take the Amtrak Crescent to New Orleans, for instance, or take it the other way and go to New York. See some Broadway shows, go to museums, do a little shopping.”

“You’re getting closer,” I said with a smile to show I was teasing. “What about a Sunday afternoon drive? Wouldn’t that suffice?”

“And see what?”

“Oh, there’re waterfalls around and fruit stands and motorcycle convoys. Maybe a fireworks stand. And we’d be home by dark.”

Sam laughed. “You just don’t want to leave home.”

“That’s right. I like it here.”

“Well, I like to travel and I’d really like you to go with me.”

“I’ll think about it.”

That had been the end of the conversation, but I knew it wasn’t the end of the matter. But, I declare, I didn’t want to take off for parts unknown and leave the people who might need me. Why, what would happen to Lloyd without me around to watch over him? And what if Hazel Marie needed help with her twin babies? And what would Lillian do if trouble descended on her or Latisha, her great-granddaughter? To say nothing of the Abbotsville First Presbyterian Church. If I were gone any length of time, there was no telling what Pastor Ledbetter would get in his mind to do. He might change the order of worship again—something that he seemed to do just to keep us off balance. Or to keep us awake, but who knew?

The last time I’d been out of town for a few days—the time I chased jewel thieves all the way to Florida—you wouldn’t believe what had happened while I was gone. I’d been elected treasurer of the garden club, president of the Lila Mae Harding Sunday school class, and leader of the book club for a whole year. And on top of that, I’d been volunteered to host a Christmas tea and to help with Vacation Bible school the following summer.

No, it wasn’t safe to leave town. I needed to stick around to protect myself. Sam, of course, didn’t have that problem. If he returned from abroad or wherever and found himself in an office he didn’t want, he’d just smile and say, “Thank you all the same, but I think I’ll pass on that.” And he’d stick to it, whereas I would be so riddled with guilt for turning down an elected honor that I’d accept it and hate every minute of it.

So the days and weeks passed with no further mention of the wonders of travel while I put aside my stock taking since I couldn’t remedy or rectify any lapses of the past anyway. I noticed, however, a few travel brochures left lying around the house—on the hall table, for one, in the kitchen by the phone, and even next to the sink in our bathroom. It seemed that Sam had in mind a boat trip down the Rhine—or up it, depending on which way it flowed. And all I could think of was how could he expect us to spend a week or more on the high seas just to get to the Rhine, then spend more time on water once we got there.

Looking back now, though, I should’ve jumped at the chance to fill our summer with a globe-trotting trip. I should’ve realized that my husband’s inquiring mind would not be content without something new and intriguing to occupy it, but I made no mention of the brochures nor did I ask about Sam’s plans. I just let things ride while hoping that his wanderlust would wear itself out or, if it didn’t, that he’d get over wanting me along. Neither happened, but a few things came up that took their place, and I’m still not sure which would’ve been for the best.

Chapter 2

“Julia,” Sam said with a little smile pulling at the corners of his mouth as he snapped open the newspaper, “I’ve decided not to take a trip this summer. It looks to be so busy that I won’t have time to get away.” This was on an evening a few weeks later while we relaxed by the fire in our new library at the end of a blustery day in February.

I looked at him in the other wing chair, taking note of his carefully averted eyes, and knew that something was afoot. “Is that right,” I responded. “Well, I’ll be glad to have you home. What changed your mind?”

“Oh, I’ve just realized that there’re a lot of interesting things to do closer to home. I don’t have to go halfway around the world to keep myself entertained.”

He was being entirely too noncommittal, deliberately holding back on something.

“You’re not planning a camping trip in Pisgah Forest, are you? Because if you are, I don’t sleep on cots or in tents.”

He laughed. “Not my cup of tea either.” Then he made a great show of concentrating on an article in the paper—a patent attempt to engage my curiosity.

“May I ask what it is you’ve found that’ll keep you too busy to float down the Rhine? And, yes, I’ve noticed all the brochures you’ve left lying around.”

“Thought you would,” he said without looking my way. “They didn’t tempt you, did they?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “They didn’t.” Then waited to hear what he’d come up with to replace his travel plans. And kept waiting, while he read the want ads, the sports page, the editorials, a columnist with whom I knew he didn’t agree, and the letters to the editor. At this point, I realized that I had another character defect that would go on my list of minuses the next time I decided to take stock: lack of patience.

“Well,” I demanded. “What is it? What do you have up your sleeve that you’re dying to tell me about, but not before I have to drag it out of you?”

He frowned and pursed his mouth, as if he were giving it some deep thought. “Well, it’s like this. It might involve a little travel—not far—just around a couple of counties, as you suggested, but still you might not be interested. I can probably handle it by myself, but if not, there’ll be plenty of volunteers to help out.”

“For what? I never heard of having volunteers to travel around a few counties. And who would volunteer, anyway?”

“Oh, a lot of folks, all eager to do whatever I want. I’ll have my pick, but don’t worry. No overnight trips as far as I know.”

“Well, that’s good,” I said, thinking that I’d figured out his plans. “Sounds as if you’ve found some fishing buddies. You’ll be floating around on water even if it’s not the Rhine, and you’ll probably catch more, too.”

“Nope, won’t be any time for fishing. The French Broad and Mud Creek will have to do without me this year.”

“Sam Murdoch,” I said, fully aroused by this time, “put down that paper and tell me what you’re doing.”

He lowered the paper, smiled at me, and said, “I’ve decided that you’re right—home is where I want to be, too. So tell me, how would you like to be the state senator’s wife?”

Jimmy Ray Mooney’s? Sam, he’s married.”

“So are you,” he pointed out, laughing at the shock on my face. “But no, you won’t have to change husbands. The one you already have has been asked to run for the senate of the North Carolina General Assembly.”

“The state senate,” I murmured, as if it was a new concept, which it was. “In Raleigh?”

“Where else?” Sam asked.

“Well, I guess I’m just surprised,” I said, running over all the ramifications in my mind. “I didn’t know you had political ambitions. How long have you been thinking about this?”

He looked at his watch. “About two hours,” he said with a straight face. Then he put aside the paper to give me his full attention. “Here’s what happened: I was approached about running several weeks ago, but I had my heart set on taking a trip with you this summer. So I turned it down, but then Frank Sawyer had to drop out—you heard about that?”

“He had a double knee replacement, didn’t he?”

“Yeah, and not doing very well, I understand. The party was counting on him to run against Jimmy Ray again, but he’s not up for campaigning all spring and summer. Look, Julia,” Sam said, leaning forward, “the deadline for filing is at the end of this week, so if you have any hesitation about this, tell me now. I’ll turn it down with no regrets. In fact, it’d give me a good excuse to go fishing instead.”

“Well, I guess that’s better than going down the Rhine, but I don’t know, Sam. You’re not giving me a whole lot of time to think. Would we have to move to Raleigh?”

“No. The Assembly is in session only a few months a year. We could get a small apartment there, and you could go with me or I’d come home every weekend. They close up shop on Thursdays, so we’d have three-day weekends at home.”

“It’s a long drive, though.”

“About four and a half to five hours.” He raised his eyebrows and smiled. “Depending on how often we stopped.”

I smiled back. I didn’t let many rest areas go by without dropping in. Then I gazed into the fire for a while, thinking over what a political campaign might mean to our comfortable way of life. Then I looked up at him and said, “This may sound as if I’m trying to talk you out of it, but I’m not. I just want to know what we’d be getting ourselves into. You’ve retired from practicing law, do you really want to take on another job? And what about your book—the one you’ve worked on so long? Would you just put that aside?”

“As for taking on another job, the beauty part of this is that I would be a one-term senator—I’ve made that clear. The party is grooming an up-and-comer, but he’s too green this year. In two years in the next election he’ll be ready or Sawyer will be healthy enough to run again. Frank knew he was having surgery, but he assured the party he’d be able to run, but, well.” Sam stopped and chuckled. “He didn’t take into account some complications he’s having. I understand he’s cussing his surgeon up one side and down the other. Fact of the matter is, Julia, I’d be a stopgap, which is fine with me. Two years of politicking is enough, and besides, it’ll give me more material for my book.”

The book of which we spoke was a history of Abbot County’s legal community—the lawyers, judges, defendants, and so on—which Sam had been working on during his retirement.

“But,” he went on, “if you’re against it, I won’t do it. The only reason I’m even considering it is because I’m a firm believer in the two-party system. To let Jimmy Ray run unopposed goes against the grain. He’s been in the senate long enough.” Sam stopped and thought for a minute. “And there is this: I may have no choice. I might not win.”

“Oh,” I said, waving my hand to brush that possibility aside, “you’ll win, all right. Everybody knows you and respects you. I have no doubt you’d win.”

He laughed again. “Thanks, but I’m not so sure. There’s an ingrained group that’s controlled this district, county, and town for years—it’s a tight network of old hands, except they’ve been careful to bring in newcomers so that the same faces don’t appear over and over. But they know what they’re doing. They pretty much stack the town council, then they take turns standing for mayor. And they do pretty much the same with state and federal offices—that’s why it’s such a blow to lose Frank Sawyer. He was the best one to take on Mooney. He almost beat him two years ago.”

“So you’d be running against Jimmy Ray?”

“Right, and he’ll be hard to beat with that crowd behind him.”

As I thought this over, I realized that a lot of underhanded things must’ve been going on that I—and a lot of others—hadn’t known about.

“That just burns me up,” I said, somewhat hotly. “Do you mean to tell me that our elections have all been rigged for years?”

“Not rigged exactly, no,” Sam said, shaking his head. “Just that they’ve been able to preselect the candidates who run, and with this district being mostly a one-party district, voters have little choice. And they put up enough new names now and then to give the appearance of...

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Book Description Penguin Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Yes, Miss Julia is back, and I, for one, am one happy camper. J. A. Jance In the 15th installment of Ann B. Ross s bestselling series, Miss Julia must teach her cousin s granddaughter some manners--and remake a political campaign. Don t miss thenewest, Miss Julia Weathers The Storm, coming April 2017 from Viking. Miss Julia s adoring fans sent this novel straight to the New York Times hardcover bestseller list. But everyone s favorite steel magnolia isn t one to rest on her laurels. It s summer in Abbotsville, and Miss Julia s cousin Elsie calls in an old family debt, asking Miss Julia to teach her granddaughter how to be a lady. When the rude and unkempt Trixie arrives, it s clear Miss Julia has her work cut out for her. Meanwhile, Sam s campaign for state senate is in trouble. Miss Julia enlists Lillian, Latisha, Lloyd, and Hazel Marie to whip Trixie and the campaign into shape!. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780143127192

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Book Description Penguin Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Yes, Miss Julia is back, and I, for one, am one happy camper. J. A. Jance In the 15th installment of Ann B. Ross s bestselling series, Miss Julia must teach her cousin s granddaughter some manners--and remake a political campaign. Don t miss thenewest, Miss Julia Weathers The Storm, coming April 2017 from Viking. Miss Julia s adoring fans sent this novel straight to the New York Times hardcover bestseller list. But everyone s favorite steel magnolia isn t one to rest on her laurels. It s summer in Abbotsville, and Miss Julia s cousin Elsie calls in an old family debt, asking Miss Julia to teach her granddaughter how to be a lady. When the rude and unkempt Trixie arrives, it s clear Miss Julia has her work cut out for her. Meanwhile, Sam s campaign for state senate is in trouble. Miss Julia enlists Lillian, Latisha, Lloyd, and Hazel Marie to whip Trixie and the campaign into shape!. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780143127192

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