Alice Duncan has published a couple dozen novels, mainly Western
romances. With "Strong Spirits," she ventures out into the comic
romance arena to wonderful effect. The book stars Daisy Majesty, a
bright, somewhat cynical young lady who reads fortunes and holds
seances for a living, and who tells us -- in a chatty, charming, and
humorous voice -- of her misadventures in the world of the rich and
cunning in 1920s Pasadena. Her main client is the beleaguered Mrs.
Kincaid, whose wealth cannot shield her from many family problems,
chief among which is her penurious, cranky, mean husband. When Mr.
Kincaid disappears, along with a pile of bank notes, pandemonium
ensues, and Daisy must navigate skillfully between the demands of
Mrs. Kincaid and the suspicions of the attractive, albeit rather
grumpy, Detective Sam Rotondo. Meanwhile, Daisy has a war-invalid
husband smouldering at home, and her love for him is tempered by her
frustrations with his moods. How will she deal with all this? Much,
but not all, is resolved in this book, and Daisy is scheduled to
appear again in subsequent volumes.
Daisy's voice is often sardonic, sometimes hilarious. The author
achieves the breezy charm of someone telling a wonderful story off
the cuff, as if over coffee and biscuits, though sometimes Daisy
indulges her every thought to the reader's dismay. Still, she can
elicit guffaws. Here are a few samples (one or two of which bring to
mind Mark Twain):
"According to my mother, a sharp smack delivered to the rear portion
of the anatomy did wonders to clear up fuzzy thinking in the head
portion of the same body."
"I really hated it when people assumed I was a cheat and a humbug,
even though it was true."
"It would be terrible if I burst out laughing when I was supposed to
be summoning the dead."
"I glanced at the ceiling, hoping God would spot my face among the
millions he saw daily, and asked Him if He didn't think I had enough
burdens to bear already . . . "
"I was seriously beginning to consider purchasing a Hudson as my
next car. You know, when I got rich. Ha! Sorry. Sometimes I get
these silly fancies."
Having fun reading this book, however, is no silly fancy. "Strong
Spirits" is strong medicine for readers who've grown tired of the
same old romances. This one is quick, funny, and knowing. Here's
hoping Daisy Majesty sticks around to tell us many more of her