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The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell

( 15 )

Overview

Belle Cantrell felt guilty about killing her husband and she hated that. Feeling guilty, that is. A lady shouldn't do something she's going to feel guilty about later was a rule Belle kept firmly in mind.

Welcome to the world of beautiful, irrepressible Belle Cantrell, years before she becomes grandmother to Sissy LeBlanc of Loraine Despres' bestselling The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc. It is 1920, prohibition is in full swing, women are clamoring for the vote — and in...

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The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell

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Overview

Belle Cantrell felt guilty about killing her husband and she hated that. Feeling guilty, that is. A lady shouldn't do something she's going to feel guilty about later was a rule Belle kept firmly in mind.

Welcome to the world of beautiful, irrepressible Belle Cantrell, years before she becomes grandmother to Sissy LeBlanc of Loraine Despres' bestselling The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc. It is 1920, prohibition is in full swing, women are clamoring for the vote — and in the little town of Gentry, Louisiana, narrow-minded intolerance is on the rise. Sent to jail for swimming in an indecent bathing costume with a group of suffragists, Belle Cantrell knows her behavior broke the rules. But sometimes — most of the time — she has to twist the rules a little, because they all say the same thing: "Don't."

A sexy, sassy story of murder, adultery, romance, bigotry, and regular church attendance, with laugh-out-loud humor and a cast of zany, endearing characters you won't forget, The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell is a big comic love story . . . and much more.

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Editorial Reviews

New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Best Prequel of 2005”
Publishers Weekly
In 1920s smalltown Louisiana, a woman who got her hair bobbed at a barbershop, bathed "indecently" and spent her free time carousing with her best friend's married Yankee brother would hardly be considered the portrait of a proper lady. But protagonist Belle Cantrell isn't after virtue, she's after independence. In this prequel to The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc, Despres, herself a native Southerner, introduces readers to Sissy's grandmother, the strong-willed Belle of Gentry, La. The book opens with Belle confessing she feels no guilt for "killing" her husband of 16 years, Claude, and Despres successfully spins the rest of her story against a turbulent political backdrop. Belle (who has a horse named Susan B.) fights for women's right to vote, battles the local Ku Klux Klan and works as the overseer of the family property. Each chapter begins with a platitude plucked from Belle's Southern Girls' Guide ("Only a fool answers every question a man puts to her," etc.). Despres's galloping prose and Belle's consistent liveliness effectively cover the lack of much else, including the substance in the predictably dashing but dangerous Mr. LeBlanc, the man who becomes Sissy's grandfather. 6-city author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
After The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc, the story of Sissy's grandmother, who shocked 1920s Gentry, LA. With a six-city tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Young widow tosses caution-and bloomers-to the wind in 1920s Louisiana. After losing her husband Claude the very day he returns from WWI, "flower of southern womanhood" Belle Cantrell bobs her hair in a symbolic gesture of emancipation that transforms her life, and shocks her small town of Gentry. Her narrow-minded neighbors should not be so surprised, since Belle is a remarkably forward-thinking former child bride who named her daughter after pioneering suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and who pays her loyal black employee Luther a "white man's wage." With Claude gone, Belle struggles with the guilty belief she may have "killed" her husband, who died in a saloon fight ostensibly defending her honor. (Seems there were some photographs of her being arrested in New Orleans on an "indecency" charge for swimming while wearing a too-revealing wool swimming costume.) Her grief is considerably eased when she takes up with Rafe Berlin, the shell-shocked vet brother of her best friend Rachel, who just happens to be Jewish. And a Yankee. And married. As if that were not enough, Belle tangles with Cajun scoundrel Beauregard "Bourree" LeBlanc, a sinfully attractive young man she hires to help her run the thriving farm Claude partially left to her. Belle's ill-advised dalliance with Bourree-whose idea of a wholesome family outing is to take Belle, her daughter and mother-in-law to a Ku Klux Klan picnic-sets in motion a rip-roaring chain of events. Soon, Belle is called upon to save Rafe and his family after the spurned Bourree convinces his white-sheeted "brothers" to go after the only Jews in Gentry. In this often funny prequel to The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc (2001), former screenwriterDespres demonstrates a fine ear for witty dialogue, even if the moronic Klansmen and assorted bigots Belle squares off against make easy targets. Breezy and enjoyable despite some southern-fried cliches.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060515263
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/13/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,454,260
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Loraine Despres is the author of the bestselling novel The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc and its tie-in title, The Southern Belle's Handbook. Raised in Amite, Louisiana, Despres is a former television writer and international screenwriting consultant. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and continues to enjoy bad behavior.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 15 )
Rating Distribution

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(10)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 17 of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Southern Bell

    At the time that this story takes place there are a lot of events occuring that write a lot of America's History. The author creates a woman that, after a tragedy, is yearning to discover what life can hold. But all around her the world seems to be crumbling. Women's right to vote, segregation and the KKK, her husbands death and the conspiracy of what really happened, her daughter dating an older boy, running a farm on her own, falling for a jewish man, dealing with her farm manager coming on to her, and all the while still trying to remain a perfect southern lady.

    This was a very entertaining read. I put it on while I was doing some cleaning and it kept my interest while I stayed busy. It wasn't my favorite book, but it was worth the time and I am not usually a fan of period books, but I enjoyed this. Mostly, I think, because I felt like the author found a way to lighten up all the seriousness that surrounds all the issues she's encompassing in this novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2009

    A good listen.

    I bought this audio book for listening in the car. At times, I would take the long way to be able to listen longer! It was very entertaining and somewhat eye opening.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2008

    A Delight From Beginning to End

    The characters are expansive and complex. I finished this book in one day. It is a wonderful story with a timeless theme.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2005

    Book Clubs Will Have Plenty to Talk About

    If Chick Lit isn't your thing, disregard the cover and marketing of The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell. It's worth reading and it's worth discussing with your book club. Author Loraine Despres is so celebrated for having written the 'Who Shot JR?' episode of Dallas that those familiar with her work might anticipate a southern soap opera in the form of a book. But Belle Cantrell, while being a southern bell, is also a symbol for some of the issues we are still wrestling with in the 21st century in America. In the 1980s you couldn't get on an airplane without seeing a paperback version of Michael Creighton's The Rising Sun in a traveler's hands. Despres may have had the same goal that Creighton did in writing and packaging her book. Both books are palatable and have broad mass appeal and both are built on cautionary tales that can't be missed through all the intrigue of the characters. Creighton deals with the economic threat of China to the United States. Despres deals with the decency of the human spirit in the United States. This is a prequel to Despres' best seller The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc. In writing her latest novel, Despres seems to be interested in scratching below the surface and looking into more serious subjects than the frivolous rules of behavior of women of the South gone by -- the chapter heading in all of her books. Belle Cantrell is a trail blazing woman of the early 20th century. She stands up publicly for women's suffrage and the rights of blacks she works as the overseer of a farm and she is personally affected by anti-Semitism despite being a WASP herself. She gets into messes without using her head at times. She believes a photo taken of her in a 'compromising position' has caused the death of her husband (she's wrong). She can't shake the silly Scarlett O'Hara one-sided conversations in her brain about what self-respecting girls (especially those who have lifted themselves out of the trash) should do. And she is not the best mother in the world. But the author has a 'gotcha' with the pleasure. The reader won't get to the end of the book without thinking about the broader themes of the fights for rights of many groups a hundred years ago and the issues that folks have to face and fight today as well. This is a palatable history lesson and a romance interwoven with issues of decency that mothers can feel good about passing on to their daughters when they are finished reading it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2005

    Excellent Read

    I just finished reading the Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell. I loved it. It grabbed me from the beginning and drew me into the plot with the larger than life characters, especially Belle. I love reading books about the south with strong women characters and this book delivered. you will not be disappointed.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    READ WITH VIM, VIFOR, AND DETERMINATION

    Ever think about what was considered 'bad behavior' in the early 20th century, and what might be considered scandalous doings now? Quite a difference, isn't there? Today Belle Cantrell would be considered well behaved but in 1920 in Gentry, Louisiana, she raised many an eyebrow when she bobbed her hair. Talk had barely died down about her new haircut when she spent time in the pokey for swimming in an inappropriate bathing costume. Belle, Belle, what will you be up to next? Well, as it turns out almost anything because this gal had a backbone of steel, and no patience for the prejudices of small town Louisiana. She believed women should vote, and the Ku Klux Klan should be tarred and feathered. On top of all that she sees nothing wrong with having male married friends. After all, she is unmarried and a person does need company from time to time. Performer Zoe Thomas reads with vim, vigor and determination, giving Belle an unforgettable voice.

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    Posted September 27, 2009

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    Posted August 31, 2009

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    Posted December 19, 2009

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