Book Review: Cape May – Chip Cheek

Cape May - Chip Cheek

About The Book

September 1957

Henry and Effie, young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon. It’s the end of the season and the town is deserted. 

As they tentatively discover each other, they begin to realize that everyday married life might be disappointingly different from their happily-ever-after fantasy.

Just as they get ready to cut the trip short, a decadent and glamorous set suddenly 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.

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 that reverberate through the rest of their lives…

My Review

Oh. My. God. What a book. Intoxicating. Heady. Dangerous. Sexy. All that and more. It is such a delicious read that I read it in one sitting unable to tear my eyes away.

It draws you in slowly. It is 1957 and Henry and Effie are on their honeymoon, getting to know each other outside of snatched moments on back seats of cars. It is a little awkward at first, they’re quite shy of one another and there isn’t much to do in Cape May to occupy them. They’re there at the tail end of September and the crowds have gone home leaving a ghost town in their wake. For Effie, Cape May represents summer holidays of her youth and she remembers the sparkling sea and sunny days but in blustery and cool September it has lost its shine somewhat. So much so that she suggests they cut their honeymoon short and return home to Georgia, but then, they spot a house across the street whose lights are on. There are expensive cars parked outside and music pouring from the open windows. Dressed in their Sunday best they visit one evening to say hello and there they meet Clara, Max and his sister Amla, and suddenly Cape May isn’t quite as gloomy.

This is an explosive read that takes a newlywed and quite innocent couple and throws them in the deep end. Their days are spent wandering the quiet town, popping into the few shops that are open and buying groceries at the local store. Their nights are spent exploring each other when they discover sex. But as time goes on Effie becomes more withdrawn. Henry doesn’t really know what to do and when she suggests they return to Georgia he is hurt and embarrassed at the thought of what people will say back home. These early days of their marriage, where they are almost playing at being grown ups and trying to work out what being a husband or wife is is beautifully drawn. It has a melancholy and haunting feel to it that contrasts wildly with what comes next.

The house across the street is a Pandora’s box of temptation and decadence representing everything that stiff and formal Effie and Henry are not. Clara is one of those brilliant female characters who is brash, insecure, glamorous, fragile, exuberant and brittle. She and Effie know each other from childhood and Clara is thrilled to be reunited but Effie isn’t that happy about seeing her again. Until she gets pulled into Clara’s orbit and before you know it she and Henry are spending days on Clara’s boat, working their way through bottle after bottle of gin and slowly, slowly, Max and Clara’s exuberance intoxicates this newlywed couple.

The contrast between Max and Clara and Effie and Henry is stark, with one couple representing fun and freedom and the other being stiff and uptight. Things change though, slowly, in increments and before we know something happens that turns everything on its head. From quiet and measured beginnings the newlyweds push their limits and find that they capable of more than they know.

This is a thrilling, heady book which I adored. Absolutely adored. It is sumptuous glamorous, an absolute page turner and one of my books of the year. I guarantee that this will be on every beach this summer and it is most definitely best read on a hot day with a cold drink, preferably a gin martini.

Where You Can Buy It

Cape May by Chip Cheek is published by W&N today in both ebook and hardcover. My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced copy of the book in return for an honest review.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Cape May – Chip Cheek

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