Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Review: Cape May by Chip Cheek

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 30, 2019
Publisher: Celadon Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "A mesmerizing debut novel by Chip Cheek, Cape May explores the social and sexual mores of 1950s America through the eyes of a newly married couple from the genteel south corrupted by sophisticated New England urbanites.  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."

Henry is a young country boy from Georgia and he just married his high school sweet heart, Effie.  They are on their honeymoon in Cape May, New Jersey and the year is 1957.  They are not only exploring their sexuality as newlyweds, but they are also expanding their horizons as this isn't rural Georgia anymore.  In fact, Cape May is pretty much abandoned for the season except for a group of sophisticated city dwellers from up North.  They have money, they throw lavish dinner parties, they drink, they go boating, they drink more.... rinse and repeat.  When Henry and Effie fall into their clutches, it alters their marriage irrevocably.  Cape May by Chip Cheek is an erotic story filled with despicable characters and horrible situations--very much so that I was unable to put down the book.

At first, I really thought Henry and Effie were cute in Cape May. Adorable, really. But then I realized how naive they actually are.  When they meet up with Clara, Max, and Alma who are also in Cape May during the off season that is where things go awry.  It was like watching two baby rabbits fall into the clutches of a vulture.  Clara, Max and Alma are worldly, experienced, and live life by their own rules.  When Henry and Effie try to assimilate into their world, things don't go well as one could easily predict.  So, this is where I thought the story would take on this Great Gatsby vibe with partying and different psychologically thrilling details, but I was wrong.  

Without giving too much away, Henry is seduced by someone (on his honeymoon!) and starts an affair with her. Willingly. And continues it. On his honeymoon.  I repeat. On his honeymoon.  I was appalled. I won't say more, but it's like just the tip of the iceberg here with these two.  Everything that could possibly go wrong on a honeymoon goes wrong in Cape May and it almost became unbelievable at one point.  Then I started disliking all the characters.  To the point where I put down the book, because I don't want my beach reads to stress me out in this manner.  This was just.too.much.  

And the sex. Oh, man. Now I am not a romance novel reader per se and I didn't read 50 Shades of Grey, but I like to think I can deal with an average amount of sex scenes in a novel.  I can also let go of a lot of erotic details if the story is strong.  But this was just too much.  The sex scenes were so overly detailed that it left a bad taste in my mouth and it felt almost smutty.  In fact, there was so much detail that all the sex became ineffective and I became numb to it.

But I will say I somehow became addicted to Cape May in the same way I might watch a reality TV show that is a disaster. I usually don't finish books like this, which is why I rarely review a book that I rate as two or three stars, but I had to know how it would end for these characters.  And once I got to the end, I was disappointed and almost depressed by it.  The overall message of Cape May, for me, was dismal.

Was Cape May well written? I guess. I will admit I was entertained, but I was disappointed because Cape May is one of my favorite places in the world and I was hoping for so much more. The town doesn't shine through the novel in the least bit.  However, there are some outstanding reviews for this novel; in fact, Kirkus gave it a starred review, but ultimately, this book is not for me and one I wouldn't recommend unless novels about drinking, sex, bad decisions, and more drinking are your cup of tea.

Did you read Cape May? Let me know your thoughts in the comment below.



  1. Ugh, that is not what I was expecting from this book! Cheating on your honeymoon?? I think I might have stopped at that point, but I can see being sucked in, like a car wreck you can't help but look at.

    1. Right??? I was like seriously? They couldn't even make it a week without a disaster. It was definitely a train wreck that I couldn't put down. Thanks for visiting, Angela.


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