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Louise Shaffer: The Ladies of Garrison Gardens

 

Crescent Blues Book Views Ballantine Books (Hardcover), ISBN 1400060621

Book: louise shaffer, the ladies of garrison gardens
When Louise Shaffer introduced us to "the Margarets" in her 2003 debut novel, The Three Miss Margarets, Laurel Selene McGready played the role of the town's black sheep. A hard-drinking, fast-driving, occasional reporter for the local paper, she nevertheless enjoyed the friendship of these three ladies of Charles Valley, Georgia.

Laura takes center stage in The Ladies of Garrison Gardens. Caring for Miss Peggy, the owner of the town's famous botanical gardens and resort, with no expectations of a reward, Laurel becomes the daughter the older woman never had. Upon Peggy Garrison's death, Laurel inherits a huge fortune and a controlling interest in the gardens. Uncomfortable with her new power and wealth, Laurel McGready does something that once again sets off the town's gossips. After she buys an $85,000 car -- in red, of course -- and goes through a lot of soul-searching, Laurel summons the nerve to do exactly what Miss Peggy never managed to pull off.

Cleverly entwined with Laurel's contemporary story, the tale of another of the town's powerful women, Myrtis Garrison, and her childhood secret propel the novel to an ending with a twist. Myrtis, mother-in-law of Peggy Garrison, covered up a past unbefitting her role in her husband's powerful family. Her fascinating story unfolds around an old suitcase uncovered when Laurel inherits Miss Peggy's possessions. An elderly woman connected to Myrtis Garrison fills in the blanks from her sickbed in Atlanta. In these riveting flashbacks, the author shows us how one small act can reach out and touch generations to come.

A perfect beach read -- a love story with a hint of mystery -- The Ladies of Garrison Gardens charms us with the women's friendship, the details of life in a small town, the appealing characters. The Margarets may take a back seat in this sequel, but even the minor characters replacing them, a bright, likeable doctor, the companion to an elderly former vaudevillian, the new owner of the town paper, make Louise Shaffer's latest novel hard to put down. Dust the beach sand off of that appealing cover, pour some sweet tea, and enjoy one of the first books of summer.

Augusta Scattergood

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