by Chip Creek
Celadon Books, 2019
source: borrowed from thelibrary
Late September 1957. Henry and Effie, very young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon only to find the town is deserted. Feeling shy of each other and isolated, they decide to cut the trip short. But before they leave, they meet a glamorous set of people who sweep them up into their drama. Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn.
The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences.
Erotic and moving, this is a novel about marriage, love and sexuality, and the lifelong repercussions that meeting a group of debauched cosmopolitans has on a new marriage.
The beach houses were empty, the stores were closed, and after sunset, all the houses on New Hampshire Avenue stood dark. For months, Effie had been telling him about this place and the many things they would do here, but she had only known it in the summer, and this was the end of September. She had not understood what "off-season" meant. They had come up from Georgia on the overnight train. They were supposed to spend two weeks here, for their honeymoon.
Very readable, but with a few problems...
On the plus side:
- Creek's writing evokes time, place, and youthful innocence.
- I enjoy the "rich people behaving badly" trope.
- An engrossing read... despite unlikable characters, it was easy to keep turning the pages.
- The characters, especially Henry, seemed more like caricatures.
- Sexual content was more graphic than necessary... and obviously written by a man.
- The ending felt rushed.
This was a quick read, but I don't feel comfortable recommending it to friends.