Cape May: A Novel

Cape May: A Novel

by Chip Cheek


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“Inside this mesmerizing tale of sexual desire and discovery, naive newlyweds Henry and Effie are honeymooning in Cape May, N.J., in 1957, tentatively navigating intimacy. Then they meet Clara and Max, hard-partying lovers who dazzle the innocent pair until they’ve lost more than their virginity. Cheek’s sensual first novel leaves you wanting more.”

"Henry and Effie’s honeymoon is meant to be their introduction to the pleasures of the body, but in the company of Clara and her promiscuous cohort they lose all track of boundaries. A dozy, luxurious sense of enchantment comes over the story, until the rude awakening at its finale.... Cape May does something better than critique or satirize: It seduces."
The Wall Street Journal

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250297150
Publisher: Celadon Books
Publication date: 04/30/2019
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 15,357
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Chip Cheek’s stories have appeared in The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Washington Square, and other journals and anthologies. He has been awarded scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop, and the Vermont Studio Center, as well as an Emerging Artist Award from the St. Botolph Club Foundation. Cape May is his debut novel. He lives in El Segundo, California, with his wife and baby daughter.

Read an Excerpt


The beaches 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 "offseason" meant. They had come up from Georgia on the overnight train. They were supposed to spend two weeks here, for their honeymoon.

"I love it," Henry said their first evening. "It's like we got the whole place to ourselves."

Effie laughed at that. A minute later, she began to cry.

"It's nothing," she said. "It's nothing, really — don't coo over me. I'm just tired, that's all." She smiled at him. "I'm glad you like it. We're going to have a wonderful time."

Before this trip Henry had never been north of Atlanta, and he had never seen the ocean. He and Effie had grown up in the little town of Signal Creek, half an hour east of Macon, and in the spring they had graduated from high school: Thomas E. Cobb, Class of 1957. He was twenty — like many people from the country, he had started school late — and she was eighteen. They both, as far as Henry knew, had been virgins.

In the taxicab from the depot they'd come out beside a harbor teeming with masts, and the sea beyond it was roiling, immense, speckled with whitecaps. From the harbor they turned into a residential area shaded with elm trees, and here were the grand Victorian houses Effie had told him about: bright colors, slate gables and conical towers, widows' walks with wrought-iron railings, porches trimmed in elaborate woodwork, trellises opening onto the sidewalks, chrysanthemums in bloom. On New Hampshire Avenue the houses were more plain — one- and two-story cottages that wouldn't have looked out of place in Signal Creek, aside from the colors. Aunt Lizzie's place was one of these: pale pink, two stories, with a deep front porch above a dead flower garden. It was disappointing. But when he stepped out of the cab and heard the ocean three blocks away, a hushed, deep roar, it seemed to him that his true life was just beginning, and that every possible door was open to him now. He scooped Effie up into his arms — she shrieked and laughed — and carried her across the threshold.

The house looked different, she said when he set her down. She hadn't seen it in three years, since the summer before her aunt Lizzie passed away. The wicker furniture was new. The gas stove, the refrigerator and freezer: none of these conveniences had existed. They seemed to trouble her. There were four bedrooms on the second floor — these looked different too — but Effie insisted they sleep in the attic room, where she had slept as a child. At the top of the stairs she slid a heavy glass door open and they stepped inside. This room, happily, had not changed a bit. The walls slanted sharply, bare wooden beams. A single bed stood in the middle of the room, a chest of drawers, a dusty vanity table and mirror. In a corner stood a small, dead Christmas tree, threads of tinsel still caught in the branches. That had been there too. She knelt down to the floor-level windows and cracked them open. From here you could see the ocean over the houses across the street; Henry crouched down for a look.

"I know it's a little peculiar," Effie said, "but you can humor me, can't you? Just for a night?"

He could humor her for the rest of her life, he wanted to say, but Effie laughed at expressions of deep feeling; she had been on the verge of laughing all through their wedding ceremony. He kissed her instead, and put his hand on her thigh, his body humming. All these months of anticipation, and here they were. They had known each other since they were children, from church and from school, though for most of that time they had not thought much of each other. He could see her standing at the blackboard in Mrs. Mobley's fourth-grade classroom, in her Mary Janes and white stockings, copying out a line from the Psalms: Mayor Tarleton's snotty little daughter. And he, one of the boys from out there, beyond the town line. Now they were here, together and alone. In New Jersey, of all places.

She laid her hand over his. "Let me take a bath first," she said.

It happened not in the attic room, which was too full of memories, but in one of the redecorated bedrooms on the second floor. They chose the one with the rose-patterned wallpaper. He drew the curtains closed. She'd just taken her bath, and while she stood still he undid the loose belt at her waist and slipped her robe off her shoulders. Until now, what little they had done had come in stolen moments back home: an afternoon at the bend in the creek, when he'd pulled the straps of her bathing suit down and seen her breasts for the first time; the night, shortly after they got engaged, in the backseat of her Buick, when he'd reached up her dress and she'd let him — the soft skin above her stockings, the elastic of her underwear, the scent that had lingered on his fingers — and every detail was burned into his memory but at the same time unreal, as if he'd dreamt it. Now, in this dim room, early on a Sunday afternoon, when they would normally be in their church clothes having dinner with their families, Effie lay naked on the rose-patterned duvet. She looked away while he unbuckled his trousers and let them fall to the floor, and after hesitating a moment, he pulled down his BVDs and got into the bed beside her. They kissed for a minute, skin against skin, smooth and cool and then warm, before he got on top of her, where he couldn't quite see what he was doing. He hovered over her, fumbling between her legs, until she looked down, took his penis lightly between her fingertips, set it in the right spot — and there she was: their intimacy deepened in an instant. His breath caught. She lay still. In a few seconds, it was over.

Afterward they lay beside each other looking at the ceiling tiles. He wondered whether he felt irreversibly changed.

"Well," Effie said. "I guess we've done it, then."

Later, as they walked down to the beach in the early evening, they held hands and had little to say to each other. What was there to say? They knew each other now, in the biblical sense. He smiled at her; she smiled back. The dress she was wearing was one she'd worn often to school, before the thought of dating her had ever entered his mind, and the familiar sight of it made her strange: she was both the girl he knew then, in the hallways of Thomas E. Cobb, and the girl he knew now, far more intimately, in Cape May, New Jersey. His wife. With whom he had already shared an indignity: they'd made a mess on the rose-patterned duvet. But Effie, bless her, had been sporting enough to laugh about it, and asked him to run and fetch her a towel. He was grateful for her.

Down at the promenade they stood for a while and looked at the sea. The waves curled over and crashed, one after another, an endless succession. All that water: it was a wonder it didn't swallow them up. The day was overcast and the wind had a bite to it. Seagulls hovered overhead, shrieking.

"It's so weird," Effie said. "In the summer this place is teeming." She pointed to a pier that jutted out from the promenade, at the end of which stood an arcade where there had been games and music, she said, where she and her friends would spend entire afternoons, until the lights came on. Acrobats and strongmen performed on the promenade, there were stands of cotton candy and saltwater taffy, and boys surfed in the waves.

"We'll just have to come back in the summer, then," Henry said.

She took his hand again and they continued on down the promenade toward town. All along Beach Avenue, to their right, the shops were shuttered and dark, signs posted in the windows: CLOSED FOR THE SEASON. SEE YOU IN MAY!

At last they found a diner that was open and sat at a booth by the window. Their waiter was a boy with the kind of accent Henry had only ever heard on the radio. He wondered if he could tell that they'd recently had sex.

"If you're from all the way down there," the boy said, "why didn't you just go to Florida?"

"Because it's beautiful here," Effie said.

Henry ordered the meat loaf, she ordered the fish and chips, and as the boy slipped his notepad into his back pocket he said, "Well, if you came to get away from it all, you came to the right place."

They ate in silence. "I'm so glad to be here," Henry said.

That evening, they called it an early night and went up to the attic room. It was not quite eight o'clock.

She prayed the way his grandmother did: on her knees beside the bed, hands clasped, muttering to herself. Henry looked away. She wore a nightgown and her breasts were loose inside of it, but after her praying, a pious aura surrounded her that stunted his arousal. She kissed him and said, "Is it all right if we just go to sleep now?" The look of pity on her face was annoying.

"Yes," he said. "That's all I want to do too."

In the dark he clasped his hands over his chest and prayed silently. He thanked God for the day. He prayed for their happiness and future. He prayed that he would be a good husband. Then he lay rigid on his side of the bed, listening to the wind and the waves through the open windows — feeling gassy, worrying he'd pass it in the night, wishing he could be alone for a little while.

* * *

The next day was better. It was raining, but they were starving and there was no food in the house, so they had to go outside. They were soaked by the time they found the grocer's in town.

There was life here, as it turned out. Weathered men in pea coats — fishermen, maybe. A group of Coast Guard cadets, from the training station north of town. A few men and women running errands under umbrellas. They passed a grammar school, and at least one of the windows was lighted, though they didn't see any children anywhere. In the central part of town, several blocks inland, a candy shop was open, a dry goods store, the grocer's on Washington Street, and beside it a hardware store and a liquor store. The old clerk at the grocer's seemed as happy to see them as they were to see him, and Effie called out orders as if she were preparing for a banquet: a pork loin, a pound of haddock, a loaf of bread, a pound of butter, sliced ham and cheese, potatoes, eggs, peach preserves, plums, apples, strawberries — she would fill the kitchen with abundance. On the way back to the cottage the rain became a downpour and they started running, each of them hugging a bag of groceries, the paper turning soft and dark in their arms. They arrived winded, doubling over with laughter. They put the groceries away and then, up in the attic room, peeled their wet clothes off and made love, memories be damned, over a beach towel spread under them on the bed.

Afterward she lay naked against him — so casual, like it was nothing already. "I'm sorry I was so gloomy yesterday," she said.

"You weren't, Eff," he said. His penis lay tipped against her thigh. He liked how it looked there. "You were tired. We're settled in now."

She nodded, her head moving against his shoulder. He couldn't see her face. "It just feels so weird to be back here. It's not like I remember it."

He kissed the top of her head — her hair was still damp — and gave her bare behind a squeeze. "Hey, so what. We're making new memories now."

She looked up at him and smiled. "You're such a sweet boy, Henry." She kissed him soft and slow, and in a minute he was up again, and though she resisted, playfully — "I told you, Henry, I'm starving" — with a nudge she got on top of him and they found each other without trying.

After lunch they sat out on the front porch and watched the rain, which was cool and fragrant, and she pointed out houses on the street and told him about the people who had lived in them during the summers. There were the Woods, in the cottage across from them, whose daughter, Betsy, used to babysit her sometimes. Next door to the Woods, in the large house with the barn-shaped roof, lived her friend Vivian Healy, whose older brother, Charles, had died in Korea. A few houses down, on this side of the street, in the big purple Victorian, lived an older couple who always kept to themselves. She never knew their names. "You'd just see them walking hand-in-hand down the sidewalk, and they'd smile at you and say hello, but that was all. There was never anyone else there, no children or grandchildren. Just the two of them."

"That'll be us someday," Henry said.

Effie laughed. "Don't say that. It's too sad."

"How is it sad? It sounds sweet to me."

She shook her head. "No," she said. "You and me — there'll be no peace for us, I'm afraid. We're going to have us a roost."

"God help me," Henry said. She'd made it clear to him that she wanted five children at least, all boys if she had her way, that she wanted a house that never rested, that she and Henry, into old age, would be at the center of a maelstrom of life (she wanted dogs too), and though he didn't care one way or another about children, or dogs — in fact her idea of the future had alarmed him when he really thought about it, in the weeks before their marriage — now it made him feel light and for a brief moment radiantly happy. They were going to be all right.

"What are you smiling at?" she said.

"You," he said.

"Quit it," she said, and she kissed him before he could say anything more.

They drank some of Uncle George's brandy. In the house instructions he'd left for them on the dining room table he told them they could help themselves to his liquor cabinet, but if they drank more than half of any bottle he expected them to replace it, and he provided them with the address of the liquor store on Washington Street. "We should leave exactly half of every bottle," Henry said, and Effie laughed. This Uncle George, Aunt Lizzie's widower, lived in Philadelphia and wasn't a blood relation. Effie had never had much to say about him, aside from the logistics of the trip and when the cottage would be available. Henry had the sense she didn't like him very much.

She made the haddock for supper — it stuck to the pan and crumbled to pieces, but it was good — and afterward they turned the radio on, found a hits station that wasn't too fuzzy with static, and danced in the den to "Chances Are." They played a game of checkers, which Effie won handily. They passed the halfway mark on the bottle of brandy.

"What's he going to do, bill us?" Henry said.

"To hell with King George," Effie said. "Bottoms up."

On Tuesday the sun came out and the streets and squares in town were spangled with light. They walked out to see the lighthouse, which stood near the point, on the other side of a wetland. This spot, according to Henry's understanding of the town, marked the southernmost tip of New Jersey. Ahead of them lay open ocean, to the left of them lay open ocean, and off to the right somewhere, on the other side of the peninsula, lay Delaware Bay. Now that the sun was out, the sea was royal blue. "Just think," he said, pointing to the horizon ahead, "about ten thousand miles down that way is Antarctica, or South Africa, or something. We could just swim and swim and never see the end of all that water."

When she didn't answer he looked at her and saw that she was frowning. She'd been grumpy that morning. They'd both had too much to drink. "That's not right," she said. "That way's west."

He felt a prick of annoyance. He'd only been trying to put a little wonder into things. "How is that way west? It's ocean as far as you can see."

"No, it's Delaware," she said. "You can see it with binoculars — I'll show you a map when we get back to the house." She pointed off to the left of where they were standing. "That way's south. If you swam that way, you'd run into Antarctica or South Africa or what-have-you. Actually, I think you'd run into Venezuela first."

Never mind. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. "Fine, Rand McNally, south is west and east is north," and she pushed him away, smiling.

* * *

They made love every morning, before they got out of bed, and again in the late afternoon. They were gentle and considerate with each other. He caressed her between her legs, shy of looking too closely at it. He kissed her breasts, her soft, plump belly, her impressive nest of pubic hair, which smelled of linen, but he went no further, afraid of offending her, afraid that she would recoil or laugh or call him a pervert. How could he ask what she wanted? How could he tell her what he wanted? Sometimes she held his penis lightly and he lifted his hips to encourage her — he wanted her to hold it more firmly (but not too firmly), he wanted her, in his dreams, to put it into her mouth — but she shied away, afraid of hurting it, or else wary of it, or revolted. He didn't know. But they made love, no words necessary, and it seemed to go a little more naturally each time. He took it slow and easy, holding back the tide for as long as possible. The headboard tapped the wall. She breathed close to his ear, her fingers in his hair.


Excerpted from "Cape May"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Chip Cheek.
Excerpted by permission of Celadon Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

CAPE MAY BY CHIP CHEEK Discussion Questions

1. How does the anonymity provided by a mostly-empty seaside town contribute to the story?
2. How does the time period inform the characters’ interactions and decisions throughout the book?
3. Henry is only 20 years old, and Effie just 18. Do their ages change how you feel about them? Why or why not?
4. What role do wealth and status play in the characters’ perspectives on life and on each other?
5. Discuss how you feel about Alma.
6. Marriage involves both give and take. What does Henry give? Take? How about Effie? What can this tell us about their relationship from beginning to end?
7. Is it possible to define a “breaking point”
for a marriage? What factors have to be considered? Do you think it is possible to truly forgive?
8. Would Henry and Effie’s marriage have been different if they hadn’t gone to Cape May for their honeymoon?
9. Discuss how you feel about the epilogue.

Customer Reviews

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Cape May 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
DJTP 24 days ago
Cape May a debut novel by Chip Cheek. Knowing the Cape May area I was interested and didn't know what to expect with this book and storyline. But really enjoyed it. Set in the 1950's a young couple up from Georgia on their honeymoon staying at a relative's beach cottage. They sure never expected the turn of events that could happen when they meet up with a old family friend of her's that could possibly change their lives. The storyline and dialogue hooked me in from beginning to end. There was some spicy content. There was some twists and turns. A totally entertaining read from start to finish.
Anonymous 14 days ago
BonnieKW 16 days ago
Cape May is set in the 50's, and a perfect time period for this book since it was about the social and sexual mores of that time and dealing with innocence and hedonism. The main characters are a newlywed couple named Henry and Effie who honeymoon in Cape May. I thought is was going to be just another love story, but I was sure mistaken. It turned into whirlwind of parties and sexual escapades when they meet neighbors Clara and Max, who bring in other New York friends, and Georgia natives Henry and Effie are immersed in maybe more than they can handle.... and the story ride begins. There are places in the book that seem redundant, and some of the characters could have had more development.....that being said, I was hooked to find out what happens and could not put this book down.
LizzyB27 24 days ago
Henry and Effie are on their honeymoon in Cape May. It’s the off season and they practically have the entire place to themselves. They are saying in Effie’s aunt and uncles cabin she stayed in as a child. Although Cap May pretty much a ghost town this time a year, there are three other people Henry and Effie meet and start spending a lot of time with. Effie falls ill and is practically sleeping round the clock, Henry starts staying up late into the night chatting with Alma. The chatting leads to an intriguing affair. They sneak into the vacant homes in the cape and dress up in the owners clothes and make love everywhere they can. They have a lot of fun together during these stolen hours. When Effie is feeling better, Alma suddenly decides to head back to New York City, and her brother Max and his girlfriend, Clara, get Effie and Henry very drunk one night, a night that will change the rest of their lives. This book was very good. It grabbed me right away and kept me all the way to the end. I highly recommend this novel.
Jodi Wiggins 24 days ago
NOTE: I received an advance copy from BookishFirst and Celadon Books in exchange for a fair and honest review. Bad decisions make good stories, and in Chip Cheek’s Cape May, Effie and Henry make many bad decisions during their honeymoon. When Effie and Henry arrive in Cape May, New Jersey in late September 1957, they are initially disappointed by the sleepiness of the town. It is not as exciting as Effie remembered it when she vacationed there during the summer as a young girl. However, they soon meet Clara, an old acquaintance of Effie’s who has grown up to become a glamorous socialite and a happy hostess, as well as married to a rich older man. That man obligingly returns home to do business quite early in the novel, leaving Clara alone to have fun with her lover Max. Max’ younger sister Alma also stays. Clara folds Henry and Effie into her group, and that is when the nice, if staid, honeymoon takes a turn. At the beginning of Cape May, Effie and Henry are 18 and 20, respectively, a naïve small-town couple who know very little about sex or life. By the end, thanks to Clara, Max, and Alma, they will have learned much more than they ever expected. Money, alcohol, and time flow quite freely in Clara’s world, and Effie and Henry allow themselves to enjoy it all. Clara and Max have very few inhibitions, which initially liberates the shy young newlyweds. But when Effie contracts a bad cold and uses the bed only to sweat and sleep for a few nights, Henry faces temptation. Chip Cheek captures the wonderful “place to ourselves” feeling of a tourist town without the summer tourists beautifully. The late-1950s details are also nicely drawn. He makes it clear that this is a highly atypical time in the lives of Effie and Henry, and that they were woefully underprepared for it by their adolescence in small-town Georgia. The sex scenes, from the newlyweds’ initial fumblings to their increasing experience, hold very little back and may be a bit too graphic for some. Some readers may also be offended by decisions that the characters make. However, even in the sleepiest little towns and the most prudish eras, good stories have always been told. Cheek tells a terrific one in Cape May. It is, quite literally, perfect beach reading.
quita917 24 days ago
Cape May kept me turning the pages. The writing put me right there at Cape May with the characters. When you first start reading Cape May, you think its going to be one thing and then....its not what you think. Effie and Henry are very young newlyweds and it shows. When you put 2 very young ,inexperienced people in a nearly deserted Cape May, they are going to find trouble. Cape May takes place during Henry and Effie's 2 week honeymoon and includes excessive drinking, sex, and all kinds of trouble. The story is told through Henry's point of view. My rating would have been higher if not for the rushed ending.
nfam 24 days ago
Newly-Weds Discover Decadence in 1950s Off-Season Cape May Henry and Effie, newly-weds from Georgia, are thrilled to be spending their honeymoon on Cape May. Effie remembers her childhood summers and all the fun she had, but they arrive off-season, and it’s a different, deserted place. Henry and Effie are inexperienced lovers. They hope the honeymoon will be a fulfilling sensual experience, but they’re shy and the town is boring. They’re ready to leave when they meet Clara, a socialite, her partner, Max, and Alma, his sister. Effie’s not eager to meet up with Clara who bullied where when they were children. However, the only excitement in town is the parties thrown by Clara and Max. The parties turn into gin soaked sex escapades. Not only do they drink, but they break into empty houses and generally behave as if in an erotic dream. Effie and, particularly Henry, become caught up in the wild parties and casual sex. It changes them and shows what can happen when innocents are thrown into a decadent scene. There is a great deal of sex in the book, and I found the parties rather repetitious. However, the ending pulls the story together and gives it focus. Henry’s experience and how he changes form the major thrust of the story. Unfortunately, I found Henry a rather uninteresting character. Effie is much in the background. That leaves the wild parties as the main element of the book. It’s an interesting look at 1950s society. I received this book from Net Galley for this review.
judgie39 5 days ago
A beautiful, sultry debut novel by Chip Creek, Cape May, takes the reader back in time to a seaside town in 1975. Effie and Hank are fresh out of high school and newly married. They travel to Cape May after the summer crowds have left to celebrate their honeymoon. Wanting to head back home early, they meet Clara ( a socialite), Max ( a wealthy wannabe writer), and Alma (Max's younger half sister). The trio welcome Effie and Hank into their group and that is when the story really begins. The days and nights are filled with fun, fueled by plenty of alcohol. The group turns the little seaside town into their own playland and nothing is off limits. A slow starts, but once it gets going it is hard to put down.
crystallyn 5 days ago
Chip Cheek makes his debut with a page-turner about newlyweds who are faced with a number of temptations (beautiful people + way too much booze) and the aftermath of their choices. It's a very sexy and sex-filled book, so readers who might not be up for graphic scenes should steer clear. But if you are not deterred, you'll be rewarded with extraordinarily well-drawn characters, an exquisitely rendered backdrop of the town of Cape May in 1957, and a deep dive into the dynamics of relationships, friendships, and the tenuous nature of both. Cape May is captivating, seductive and at times shocking. It's a book I'll be thinking about for a long time to come. Thanks Celadon for the copy for early review.
Anonymous 5 days ago
lsmoore_43 7 days ago
I thought this was going to be such a good book. I love the era and the setting sounded so nice. The more I read the more I was thinking that I was very disappointed in this book. I don’t mind books that contain sex scenes, drinking and other things but this one went way overboard. To much detail. Way to much. I liked the very beginning, not so much the middle, and HATED the end. It was just not at all the story I thought it would be. I was just not happy with this story at all. For me it’s just a two star read and the second star is because I actually finished this crazy book. I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley and from Bookish First. I’m sorry but I just didn’t like it.
CynB 11 days ago
Cape May, by Chip Cheek, was a disappointment. The very thin plot described the honeymoon of a very young couple, in Cape May during off-season. They quickly meet with a group of slightly older and significantly more hedonistic people, and are gradually pulled into a house party that is best characterized by its heavy drinking, casual sex, and complete lack of respect for other people’s rights or interests. Not a single character in this novel had a shred of ethics or values or even regard for people they purported to love. I hope that I will that the memory of each will fade as quickly as I expect. The only redeeming quality of this novel is Cheek’s masterful prose. It is lyrical and evocative. I hope his next book has a more compelling plot and characters with more depth. Thank you to NetGalley and Celadon Books for the opportunity to read an electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 14 days ago
I would describe this book as Great Gatsby-esque but set in the 1950s and in Cape May, New Jersey. Cheek's writing style is so engaging it makes this a lightening fast read,. The characters are so compelling you just have to find out what they are doing next. You have a feeling they are always on edge of pure life course disaster, but you think they just might make it out of Cape May unharmed. The book revolves around four main characters with two completely different lifestyles. Henry and Effie are young newlyweds on their honeymoon who find themselves in the boring throws of Cape May's offseason. They are navigating marriage in the 1950s meaning both have done very little sexual exploration. Meanwhile, Max and Clara are New York socialites visiting the Cape for a weekend celebration turned multi-week vacation . Clara and Effie knew each other as young children, but since Clara has married a wealthy older man and taken Max as her lover. The book follows the character on a journey of coming of age, navigating relationships and a whole lot of sexual exploration largely over the span of a three week honeymoon that changes the trajectory of their lives. This book makes for a great character study and an excellent book club book because there is so much to dissect.
NYCReader2 20 days ago
An electrifying debut! Atmospheric, propulsive and gorgeously written.
Bookapotamus 21 days ago
They should have gone to Florida.... Cape May was not what I expected. It's not the lovey dovey sunny beachy time you might think a newly married couple might spend their honeymoon. It's a seductive and isolating journey of discovery, loss of innocence and betrayal. I consumed it with reckless abandon and was left trembling and passionately moved. Henry and Effie start their honeymoon discovering each other in a sleepy off-season New Jersey beach town. After meeting a few rich and carefree, glamorous and flirtatious new friends, they decide to extend their stay with trepidation, but soon find themselves in intoxicating situations filled with excessive amounts of gin and tonic and sensual erotic temptations. Equal parts stimulating and provacative, the writing is an aphrodisiac for a reader. It's steamy and tantalizing, and a passionate exploration of the transgressions of a marriage that just might be doomed before it even begins.
Anonymous 21 days ago
A mesmerizing 1st novel by Mr. Cheek. I could not put it down.
Anonymous 21 days ago
Anonymous 22 days ago
This is a mesmerizing book about love marriage and sex. I couldn't put it down. it is beautifully written and it haunts me. A must read.
Anonymous 22 days ago
Perfect Book Club and summer read!!
saberle 23 days ago
Cape May by Chip Cheek reminds me of a generation that I only know from reading great books like Cape May. The characters are newlyweds and are in Cape May, New Jersey for their honeymoon. When they arrive in September, the usually lively resort town is uncrowded. However, they quickly make friends with the cool and glamorous, and from that point on their lives change in unseen and ambiguous directions. Cape May is a quick and entertaining read written by an author who knows how to tell an engaging and sometimes unpredictable story. Chip Cheek is an author to watch. But for the moment, grab this book and have a fun day at the beach. Many thanks to Celadon Books for the sneak peek.
Renwarsreads 23 days ago
I felt like this book has a Great Gatsby vibe to it. A young couple mingle and party with the rich, enjoy the good life and get carried away in their temporary surroundings. I kept waiting for the story to pick up and after about halfway through, it started to but just not enough to keep me wanting to read just one more page. This book left me with an empty feeling when it ended. I guess there are some people who can never get over past mistakes they've made.
MeganLeprich 24 days ago
I won a free copy of this book from Bookish First and Celadon Books. I have not read many historical fiction novels and after hearing many great things about this book I decided this one would be good to start with! This book is set in 1957 and newlyweds Henry and Effie are head to Cape May in late September for their honeymoon. The weather is miserable which means they practically have the whole place to themselves. Effie grew up visiting Cape May during the summer months but had never visited in the fall so she had no idea it would be so deserted. They end up meeting some new friends that are wealthy socialites that end up being their saviors on their dreary trip. I didn’t really care for any of the characters especially Henry. Some of the things he did were completely unbelievable and it seemed like he was a big poser. The whole book felt really unrealistic to me, I’m sure there are people that actually live this way but I just didn’t care for it. My main complaint about this book is how it seemed to me to be historical fiction but leaned more towards erotica which I’m not a huge fan of. I don’t mind a few sex scenes thrown in every now and again but this was a little ridiculous. The ending did make up for all of the sex but overall I wasn’t a huge fan of this book.
MaryND 24 days ago
This one started off really well—I was snared by the period 1950s details and the atmospheric and moody setting of a New Jersey beach town in the off season, and the story of Effie and Henry, two young honeymooners from Georgia with limited experience of the world, had that sense of impending doom that reminded me a bit of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach or Graham Swift’s Mothering Sunday, both books that I really loved. Their interactions with the sophisticated New Yorkers Clara and Max, and Max’s sister Alma—nights spent lounging around by a fire drinking gin and tonics and days spent sailing and drinking more of them—made it easy to see how Henry and Effie were seduced by the glamour of a life they hadn’t known before, and kept ratcheting up the tension leading to what would obviously be some sort of betrayal on someone’s part. To me, this fall should have been the climactic emotional high point of the book, but when it inevitably happens, Cape May is only at the halfway point. What follows became a bit difficult to read, as the characters kept complicating things further in a way that began to feel like overkill and that undercut the real emotional wallop of that first betrayal. It might just be that I was hoping for a different sort of story than what debut novelist Chip Cheek wanted to tell, and that’s fine, just disappointing for me that what started out as a nuanced examination of temptation and the psychological fallout of infidelity veered into Fatal Attraction territory. Many thanks to NetGalley and Celadon for providing me with an ARC of this book in return for my honest review.
Momof2kids 24 days ago
Cape May was an ok book for this born and raised Jersey Girl. I spent most of my summers growing up visiting the Jersey Shore, including Cape May (which is a beautiful quaint town. If you are ever in Jersey, def make it a point to visit). After reading this book, I'm not sure I can go back to Cape May without blushing a little bit. Henry and Effie are newlyweds in the 1950s which was a time where everyone basically remained a virgin until their wedding night (well most of the girls and some of the boys). They honeymoon in Cape May NJ right after the tourist season ends. They are sweet and innocent and enjoying each other on their journey. One walk into town though changes all that and they find themselves in an alcohol fuel sexual awakening that changes their entire lives. The book started out as a sweet innocent story of new love but then warps into a sexually explicit story. While the story itself is good and interesting, the sex scenes are way over the top and I actually found myself skimming through them (way over done). I did like how you are able to see how Henry and Effie make it through all this as well. All in all, a good read!
Nanna51 24 days ago
Henry and Effie have left their small town in the south to spend their honeymoon in Cape May. All is going well for them until they meet Clara and her entourage that are also vacationing there. Clara is an old acquaintance of Effie, and with her encouragement and Henry’s acquiescence, the couple spends more and more time with Clara and less time celebrating their marriage. The results are disastrous for the young couple because they are not ready for the scene at Clara’s house, with a lot of drinking and debauchery. I did not particularly like any of the characters. The men were weak and the women were beyond redemption, for the most part. The setting was well done, with an excellent portrayal of Cape May at the end of its tourist season. The plot, however, was way beyond what I expected as this book should definitely be related R for sex scenes and language. I did not feel bad for any of the characters and how things turned out for them since they brought their consequences on themselves. The lack of empathy for the characters led to my lower rating as well as the sex that was bordering on X-rated, in my opinion. I recommend this book for those who want to be entertained in this way, but it just was not my cup of tea. Disclaimer Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Bookish First. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”