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Alma Mater

Alma Mater

3.4 10
by Rita Mae Brown

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Sex makes monkeys out of all of us. If you don’t give in to it, you wind up a cold, unfeeling bastard. If you do, you spend the rest of your life picking up the pieces. . . .

At the start of senior year at William & Mary, the six-foot-tall, raven-haired beauty Victoria “Vic” Savedge finds her future mapped out in detail. She


Sex makes monkeys out of all of us. If you don’t give in to it, you wind up a cold, unfeeling bastard. If you do, you spend the rest of your life picking up the pieces. . . .

At the start of senior year at William & Mary, the six-foot-tall, raven-haired beauty Victoria “Vic” Savedge finds her future mapped out in detail. She will marry Charly Harrison, the son of one of Virginia’s most prominent families. Though branded by a fiery streak of independence, Vic hasn’t really considered any other options. Until she meets a woman named Chris.

A transfer from Vermont, Chris is new to Southern mores and attitudes. Though instantly captivated by Vic, she is also drawn to the entire quirky but charming Savedge family. But the young women’s friendship is not your basic college-girl variety. For neither can resist their mutual attraction–an attraction that erupts into a passion that will forever change the course of both their lives.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Popular and prolific Brown (Rubyfruit Jungle, etc.) lavishes her attention and breathless prose on another lesbian coming-of-age tale set in Southern belle territory. Victoria "Vic" Savedge is a gorgeous 22-year-old senior at the College of William and Mary in present-day Virginia. Her parents, Frank and R.J., little sister Mignon and best friend Jinx Baptista all expect Vic to marry her rich football star boyfriend Charly Harrison after graduation. However, in the opening scene, Vic meets Chris Carter, a female transfer student to whom she is increasingly attracted. Their flirtatious behavior deflates any suspense Brown may have hoped to create; it's clear Vic's commitment to Charly is shaky. As she unconvincingly struggles to choose between lovers, Vic ponders with Jinx the roles fate, honor and individual responsibility play in life. During weekend visits to her ancestral home, Surry Crossing, Va., Vic is entertained by the smalltown antics of her womanizing Uncle Don and sex-deprived Aunt Bunny, and the Wallaces, neighboring middle-aged sisters who pathetically vie for their elderly father's favor. Brown's tendency to tell rather than show ("Raised in a judgmental family, Chris had survived by nourishing her sense of rebellion. She didn't know what she was looking for until she met Vic") and filler dialogue ("Sit down. It's my turn to give you a Coke" and "Mother, do you want a refill?" "No, thank you. But you may clean the ashtray") wear on the reader, and the one-dimensional characters and soap opera story line provide little relief. Brown's good-natured humor and exuberant treatment of her themes may satisfy her fans, but she's unlikely to pick up new readers this time around.8-city author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The protagonist is a vivacious senior at William and Mary College in 1980. Vic's life seems great. She is about to get engaged and aside from some family financial strains, all is going fine. Then she meets Chris, another student, and falls madly and passionately in love with her. The story follows Vic as she deals with the ramifications of loving another woman and watching her crazy Southern family bounce off the walls. As events progress, Vic also manages to get thrown out of school and Chris becomes pregnant. Some parts of the novel are fun and funny while others are quite serious. There are some graphic sexual encounters and the end is a bit disappointing but the whole is still quite entertaining. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students and adults. 2001, Ballantine, 260p., Holab-Abelman
Library Journal
Gorgeous Victoria is expected to marry her football hero boyfriend, but this being a novel by the author of the juicy Rubyfruit Jungle, there's inevitably a twist. Vic falls for a new woman on campus named Chris and must learn how to juggle her various loves. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Twosomes and threesomes at an ivy-covered Virginia college, from the author of "Rubyfruit Jungle (1983), etc., and the popular Sneaky Pie Brown mystery series. Vic Savedge is a knockout and six feet tall to boot. She's dating football player Charly Harrison, scion of a distinguished Virginia clan that even produced a president, much to her mother's delight. The Savedge women are not above a little scheming when it comes to marrying well, and they have what it takes to do it right. Gorgeous Vic is a clone of her mother R.J., a black-haired, green-eyed beauty who gossips incessantly with her sister Bunny. They still believe that a woman is only as good as the man she's with, much to Vic's dismay. It may be 1980, but apparently they've never heard of feminism. Mother and aunt are determined to see Vic safely wed-especially now that R.J.'s feckless husband Frank has just lost most of the family money in the stock market. Vic has other things on her mind, like getting a job to pay her tuition and playing a little less lacrosse, even though she and best friend Jinx are the most important members of the team. But then she meets Chris Carter, a very pretty, very blond student from Vermont and is immediately attracted to her-and very confused by that attraction. Could it be that she's . . . gay? Only a little sexual experimenting will tell, but juggling two lovers proves difficult. Fortunately, clueless Charly doesn't even notice-until he and Chris and Vic end up in a hot threesome. Vic doesn't know what to do. But why choose? "Why accept the world's limiting structures?" She indulges in similar sophomoric musings about relationships, until a campus prank lands them all in hot water. Somehow,this inconsequential event helps them all grow up a little. End of story. Sketchy characterization and desultory writing don't exactly fill in the blanks between sex scenes, and the college-lesbian romance seems awfully dated-when not embarrassingly rapturous.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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5.25(w) x 8.21(h) x 0.57(d)

Read an Excerpt

If knowledge were acquired by carrying books around, I’d be the sharpest tool in the shed,” Vic thought as she carted the last load up three flights of stairs on a hot summer day.

Sweat rolled between her breasts. Light poured into the rooms, the windows thrown open to catch any hope of a breeze. As she placed the carton on top of the old kitchen table, it swayed ever so slightly from the weight.

“Dammit!” a voice complained from outside.

Vic walked to the kitchen window that overlooked a well-maintained yard. A small creek bordered one side of the property, a line of thick pines obscuring the view into the neighbor’s yard.

Vic leaned out her window and listened to the sounds of struggle and fury. She trotted down the stairs, jumped the creek, and emerged through the pines. A young woman perhaps five feet five inches tall, blond, her back turned to Vic, was cussing a blue streak while trying to slide an old dresser from the back of an equally old Mercedes station wagon.

“Need a hand?” Vic’s low alto startled the woman.

She turned around. “You scared the shit out of me!” Her voice betrayed Pennsylvania origins.

“Sorry.” Vic smiled. “I’m your neighbor. Vic Savedge. Come on, we’ll get the dresser out and we can carry it up together.”

“I’m Chris Carter.” The woman held out her hand.

Both women smiled and shook hands.

Then Vic removed the dresser with one pull.

“How’d you do that?”

“Patience. You lost yours,” Vic sensibly replied.

“Guess I did.” Then she slyly added, “Anyone ever tell you you’re big and strong?”

“Every day. And it doesn’t get them anywhere.” Vic laughed. “But in your case, seeing as how I have to live next to you for the year, I’ll carry this up.”

Chris struggled to pick up one end. “This thing is awkward.” She blinked to keep the sweat out.

“Put it down,” Vic commanded.


“Just put it down,” Vic repeated. “You go ahead of me and open the doors.”

“You aren’t going to carry that up by yourself, are you?”

“It’ll be easier than trying to maneuver you and the dresser.” Vic hoisted the bird’s-eye maple dresser on her back, bent over, and started up the back stairs of the Olsen house. Chris’s apartment was at the top of that house just as Vic’s apartment was at the top of the DeReuter house. She gladly put down her burden when she reached the top of the last flight, breathed deeply, then picked it up again and headed toward the bedroom. Chris led the way, apologizing with every step. Vic placed the dresser against the wall.


“Thank you. Really. I can’t thank you enough.”

“A Co’Cola would help.” Vic wiped her brow, droplets of sweat spraying off her fingertips.

Chris’s kitchen was graced with newer appliances than were in Vic’s kitchen. She opened the refrigerator door, pulled out a cold can of Coke, grabbed a glass with dancing polar bears on it, dropped in ice cubes, and poured the soda. Then she repeated the process for herself.

“They taste better over ice.”

Vic gulped hers down. “True.”

“Here, you need another one.” Chris popped open another can and poured its contents into Vic’s glass. Her eyes met Vic’s for a second. Vic had green eyes, deep electric green. Set against her black hair, her eyes could be almost hypnotic. “You have the most incred- ible eyes.”

Vic laughed. “It runs in the family. So does the height—my mother’s six-one, too.” Then she studied Chris. “Well, you’ve got brown eyes and blonde hair and you’re petite. I bet everyone tells you you’re pretty, it’s a beautiful combination. Do you listen to them?”

“Never. Do you?”

“No, I don’t want to be known for how I look but for what I do.”

“If we were both butt-ugly we’d probably feel different.”

They laughed; then Vic said, “What year are you?”

“Junior. I’m a transfer from the University of Vermont. It’s a good school, but I never knew how much I hated cold weather until I wound up in Vermont. Fall starts in August. I think you have to be born to it, you know?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never been to Vermont. The farthest north I’ve been was to visit Cornell but it was during summer.”

“Same difference. Fall starts there in August, too.” She finished her drink. “Are you moved in?”

“Yes,” Vic said with relief. “I’d just put the last carton of books on the table when I heard you.”

“Was I that loud?” Chris’s hand flew to her mouth, an unexpectedly feminine gesture.


“It could have been worse. I could have yelled ‘fuck.’ ”

Vic laughed again. “One of two things would have happened: Every old biddy on the street would have fainted dead or the men would have come running, hoping you meant it.”

Chris wrinkled her nose. “Neither prospect sounds very appetizing.” She took the glass from Vic’s hand. “What year are you?”


“Lucky dog.”

“I guess. I still have to get through it. Don’t count your chickens, et cetera.” She walked over to the sink as Chris washed out the two glasses. “Do you know anyone at William and Mary?”

“Not really. I fell in love with the school and figured I’d make friends.”

“You’re in luck. I have wonderful friends. If you’re really good to me, you can meet them.”

“I’m pretty damn good,” Chris replied.

Meet the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; In Her Day; and Six of One, as well as several other novels. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia.

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Alma Mater 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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whoizme88 More than 1 year ago
This is a romance novel and I am used to the cat series by Rita Mae Brown, which I really enjoy. This story has just enough, sex, humor, love, and pace to make it an interesting and enjoyable read. Would read others of this type from this author. J. Robert Ewbank, anthor "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the 'Isms'"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Here's another sad example of the decline of Rita Mae Brown, who formerly provided us with many entertaining personalities and stories. As do too many of Brown's recent books, this novel has an uninspired plot, one-dimensional characters, leaden dialogue, and an unrealistic setting. I attended the College of William and Mary during the period covered by this novel, and it was not at all as Brown describes it. We actually HAD heard of feminism and gay rights at that time, few students cared a bit about the football team, no one was expelled for harmless pranks, and no one but a devout Christian would have avoided sex as long as Vic and Charly did. That Vic leaped from apparently not being terribly sexual at all to initiating a bisexual three-way fling with her long-time boyfriend and new lesbian lover is perhaps most absurd of all. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alma Mater was a good read...it got me hot in all of the right places. i enjoyed reading about Vic and Chris's relationship. Their passion is what all lesbians wish they had. i read it all in one sitting...it's to good to put down. It's a wonderful book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Southern humor and outlandish characters is a stalwart trait of writing by Rita Mae Brown, and her latest offering, Alma Mater, doesn't stray far from it. Set on the campus of William & Mary College, it tells the tale of Victoria 'Vic' Savedge, the statuesque beauty of an old-fashioned Virginia family, where life is lived according to tradition, and daughters 'marry well.' Vic's life is following her mother's plan perfectly until she meets Chris, the diminuitive blonde new to the college. This happenstance meeting turns Vic life upside down, has her questioning everything she has ever known to be true, and before long, finds herself madly in love with this beautiful woman. Once this passion is unleashed, it follows an unpredictable path guaranteed to upset the course of both their lives. Compared to other Brown novels, Alma Mater doesn't quite live up to the enchanting and charming characters of say, Six of One, one of the most entertaining books I've ever read. But as a standalone novel without previous knowledge of Brown's other work, Alma Mater is an enjoyable read.