Diary of a Blues Goddess
While Diary Of A Blues Goddess features many standard plot devices, it also boasts a freshness of writing and spirit that makes it a fast, fun, and breezy read. That it features a heroine who is likable even when making mistakes speaks to author Erica Orloff’s ability to write a good story.
Georgia Ray Miller is a blues goddess in hiding, a woman who sings in a wedding/convention band and dreams of someday being able to reveal the blues goddess she knows is inside. Georgia loves the blues, and knows it – although she’s just beginning to live it. She resides in a rambling house in New Orleans, a former brother reputed to be haunted by a murdered whore. The ghost confines herself to slamming doors if one of the house’s occupants is making a mistake in love. The doors start slamming when Georgia becomes romantically involved with several different guys.
28-year-old Georgia Ray is multi-ethnic and has always felt out of place in her world, as much because of her need to sing as anything else. Her father walked out on Georgia and her mother, leaving only his record collection and love of the blues behind. Her mother dedicated herself to curbing her daughter’s wild side, but when she died of cancer, Georgia moved in with her grandmother Nan, a stereotypical New Orleans wild spirit who makes jamabalaya every Sunday and encourages her granddaughter to follow her heart. Since the house is so large, Nan allows any and all of Georgia’s friends to move in (titling the house the “Heartbreak Hotel”) whenever they are unlucky in love. As the novel begins, Georgia’s best friend and drag queen Dominique is in residence and Jack, one of her bandmates, moves in shortly thereafter.
When she discovers the diary of Honey Walker, Nan’s sister and her own great-aunt, Georgia begins to look into her own life, realizing it is not what she wants. Honey also had dreams of being a blues goddess and did, in fact, find the love of her life, only to have it all fall apart. Georgia finds strength and inspiration in her relative’s diary and it is a clever device to showcase Georgia’s own story.
Georgia chafes at the restrictions of singing in a wedding band, but lacks the initiative to go it on her own. She is comfortable living with Nan, tearing around town ripping panty hose, and hosting those Sunday night dinners for her extended family. Her friendship with an old bluesman who encourages her in her dreams of singing the blues rather than Abba, leads Georgia to believe she might be able to make such a huge change in her life. As she moves towards her life change, she makes a few romantic mistakes that teach her what she is not looking for, and it makes her mature from a whimsical, constantly late wild child to someone who has suffered – in other words, someone who understands the blues.
After a few of these wake-up calls, Georgia discovers what it is she wants, both personally and professionally, and she goes for it. Along the way her various friends (an overshadowed best friend with a penchant for crazy hair colors; a drag queen who refuses to be in the closet; the old bluesman; and members of her band) also find some measure of happiness, and it is a surprisingly satisfying ending. Although Orloff includes some standard chick lit characters and plot devices, Georgia Ray herself is so much fun it is easy to overlook some of the more formulaic elements.