So begins The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell, a story of murder, adultery, and regular church attendance, which introduces Belle Cantrell as a beautiful young widow with a rebellious streak, years before she will become grandmother to Sissy LeBlanc, the feisty main character of Loraine Despres's bestselling The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc.
The year is 1920, prohibition is in full swing, women are clamoring for the vote, and a narrow-minded intolerance is on the rise. Life isn't easy for an unmarried woman, not in a little town like Gentry, Louisiana, especially after she's sent to jail for swimming in an indecent bathing costume with a group of suffragists.
It's not as if Belle doesn't know how to behave. She knows the rules. She keeps the Primer of Propriety firmly in mind. But sometimes, most of the time, she has to twist the rules a little, or break them, or give them a permanent kink, because they all say the same thing: "Don't".
And a girl has got to live.
After a year and a half of mourning, Belle decides to get on with her life and kicks off a season of tumult that will change her and Gentry forever.
Sexy, sassy, with laugh-out-loud humor and a cast of zany characters you won't forget, The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell is a big comic love story and a page-turner. But it delves deeper, as Belle struggles to find her moral center and stand up to forces that are determined to destroy the soul of a town and the people she loves.
©2005 Loraine Despres; (P)2005 HarperCollins Publishers
What a precise step back into time. What a nice evolution of the character Belle. From uneducated and ignorant to a solid Steel Magnolia with a heart the size of Texas, the nerve of ten men, and the cunning that only comes from living under someone's thumb for too long. Watching her bloom was quite enjoyable. Wonderfully written. This is the kind of book that makes you realize how far we as a society in America have come. No longer do we suffer (that much) from the severe racism that was Belle's world. Nobody that wasn't a southern white male wanted to live in this time period. White females had to put up with a lot of crap and fragile egos and be the defenders of those who could not defend themselves. They suffered from as much abuse as anybody else, and had to sleep with their oppressors. I listened to what it was like to be my great grandmother. I have a new respect for her and what she lived through. For a woman, it took a sense of humor, cunning, and a backbone to live during the time period described in this book. If we all had a Belle Cantrell in us, the world would be a better place. I thank God that I don't live Belle's world. I thank all the women and men who made my life a productive and free one so that I can go to work, or to a restaurant and not have to worry about what anybody thinks. Five Monster Stars.
I found the book mildly interesting, and the writing style a bit basic. If you go for "gothic romance" type books, it's for you. If you'd rather have something with more substance, you'd be better off with something else, like the Memory Keepers Daughter, My Sister's Keeper, or The Kite Runner. If you're looking for humour, I found Jane Stanton Hitchcock's books much more humorous or read The Devil Wears Prada. This reminded me of books I read and enjoyed as a teen, however, there may be too much descriptive sex for some teens. . .
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