Ann B. Ross, Author . Viking $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-03207-5

Fourth in a popular series about a Southern widow with perfect manners and a taste for trouble, Ross's latest will bring a chorus of "Thank you, Lord"s from faithful readers. Newcomers may need a moment to figure out who's who in the cast—for instance, that Little Lloyd is the son of Julia's late husband, Wesley Lloyd Springer, and his "paramour," Hazel Marie, both of whom Julia has embraced as family. Ross's heroine may set a premium on appearances, like any traditional Southern lady, but what she really loves is problem solving and gracefully doing good. This time out, she finds herself championing her longtime housekeeper, Lillian. A greedy landowner is about to raze Lillian's home—in fact, the entire Willow Lane neighborhood, which houses low-income blacks. In order to save them, Julia gambles her own home and flouts her sense of propriety by donning Hazel Marie's leather pants and participating in a high-stakes motorcycle marathon and poker game, along with the Presbyterian minister's previously stodgy wife. And if that sounds improbable, factor in a spring whose water has an awesome effect on garden shrubbery and men's anatomy, furnishing oodles of delicious scandal. Series fans take note: Binkie and Coleman have a baby, and things look mighty promising between Julia and lawyer Sam Murdoch at the end of the book. (Mar. 31)

Forecast:Miss Julia isn't the only one hitting the road. Ross will embark on a 10-city tour, which should help keep this series humming along—to date, there are more than 200,000 paperbacks of Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind in print.

Reviewed on: 03/31/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
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