Monday, August 01, 2011

A Perfect 10: GENTEEL SPIRITS by Alice Duncan

GENTEEL SPRITS - Alice Duncan
A Perfect 10
Five Star
ISBN: 978-1-4328-2500-3
July 2011
Historical Fiction

Pasadena, California, 1922

Spiritualist Daisy Gumm Majesty, Desdemona Majesty to her clients, makes a living with a Ouija Board, Tarot cards, and séances. She knows she is telling stories, but if rich folks want to pay to hear what she says the dead tell her, who is she to argue with them? Besides, she needs to help support her family. The love of her life, her tall, handsome husband Billy, came back from the war wounded and his lungs damaged from a mustard gassing. He is now confined to a wheelchair. Their only cheerful activity together is Billy watching Daisy with their Dachshund, Spike, at obedience training in the park on Saturday.

Daisy and Billy live with her ma, her dad, and her Aunt Vi, who cooks for one of Daisy’s clients. So when an acquaintance calls to arrange a séance for Mrs. Lurlene Winkworth, grandmother to movie star Monty Mountjoy, Daisy accepts. This leads to her to work as a personal spiritual guide for Lola de la Monica, female lead opposite Monty Mountjoy in a film being made at Mrs. Winkworth’s beautiful estate. The only problem is Billy’s best friend, Sam Rotondo, an officer with the Pasadena Police Department, who Daisy knows dislikes her, has been assigned to the filming site. Once started, Daisy discovers Lola to be a temperamental drama queen who continually puts the film behind schedule. However, maybe that’s due to the poison pen letters Lola is receiving. Added to that, Daisy notices changes in Billy’s demeanor that can't indicate anything good.

Author Alice Duncan has Daisy tell the reader the story as if she is speaking from some point in the future, which at first was a little odd, but worked very well. Daisy is a chatty, engaging woman who has bravely faced some very tough situations. She knows she is a fraud, but the reader won't mind because Daisy actually helps her clients. This story is pure entertainment, and not because of the film taking place. Daisy’s observations about her life, her cheery nature, her wit, and her care for her loved ones make her a special character who seems to be the essence of her time. Other characters add sparkle, like Daisy’s homosexual best friend, Harold Kincaid, costumier for the film; Sam Rotondo, and Spike. All in all, this charming, fun read with a cliffhanger that ensures I'll read the next volume earns a Perfect 10.

Robin Lee

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