In a sequel to The Three Miss Margarets (2003), Shaffer employs all the components of a Lady’s Southern Novel—but creates something fresh and likable from the old tricks.
Laurel Selene McCready is as shocked as the rest of small-town Charles Valley, Ga., when she learns she is sole heir to Miss Peggy’s vast fortune: the whole of Garrison Gardens and Resort. Friend to the grand dame in the last years of her life (and with the other Miss Margarets, too: L’il Bit and Dr. Maggie), Laurel is now the company owner in a company town. Though with no father, a drunken mother (now dead), a poor-paying job (now lost) and a penchant for kicking it up herself, Laurel is hardly capable of running a multimillion-dollar concern, or so scheming lawyer Stuart Lawrence would have her believe. All Laurel has to do is sign a power of attorney and Stuart will make all Garrison Gardens decisions for her (top of the list is a big employee layoff and a drastic hike in health insurance premiums). Despite her daughter-like relationship with Miss Peggy, Laurel has always hated the Garrisons and the way they’ve strong-armed the town for generations. Now that she has the power to change things, she realizes she doesn’t have the know-how. Meanwhile, she becomes intrigued with the mysterious first Mrs. Garrison and the trunk of lacy costumes she finds hidden in the house. While Laurel’s moral dilemma is sincere, the story’s real spice comes from the nicely imagined subplot detailing the Depression era exploits of the Sunshine Sisters. A second-rate vaudeville act, Iva Claire, her mother Lily and foundling Tassie travel the circuit, dodge trouble and aim for the big time while surviving on hush money arriving regularly from Georgia. It becomes apparent that the Sunshine Sisters have everything to do with Garrison Gardens and, by the close, lies, secret identities and a murderer are revealed.
Like a southern-fried meal, fatty and indulgent, and the more delicious for being so.