“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
Cape May is a raw, provocative portrayal of a young 1950s couple on the cusp of a sexual awakening, and the temptations that upturn their honeymoon and reshape their marriage.
In this erotic and intimate debut novel, a naïve southern couple is exposed to a group of raucous, debauched urbanites. Arriving for their honeymoon in Cape May, New Jersey, during the off season, Henry and Effie are startled to find the beach town deserted. The abandoned homes and desolate beaches make them shy of each other, and, isolated in their new marriage, they decide to cut their trip short.
But before they leave, they encounter their glamorous, sensual neighbors and become swept up by 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, mysterious, and evocative half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn. Slowly, agonizingly, these deeply-flawed, profoundly human characters pull Henry and Effie out of themselves and expose them to a side of desire they never expected.
While they discover new truths in each other and in their marriage, the empty beach town becomes their playground. And as they sneak into the vacant summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink an enormous amount of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences.
Seductive and moving, this is a novel about marriage, love, raw sexuality, and the ways in which desire and betrayal can reverberate endlessly throughout our lives.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Settle into your favorite reading chair for this unexpectedly steamy novel about a 1950s newlywed couple. Hailing from small-town Georgia, Henry and Effie are spending their honeymoon in the New Jersey beach town of Cape May. There, they get pulled into a swinging circle of rich sophisticates whose gin-and-tonic-fueled partying never stops. Debut novelist Chip Cheek perfectly captures the young couple’s shy awkwardness with each other, the forbidden allure of their new friends’ libertine ways, and the potential emotional fallout of Henry and Effie’s newfound freedom. It’s a smart, provocative read, perfect for your next beach vacation.
Cheek's strong debut is a psychodrama that shows just how easily people can be manipulated. Henry, 20, and Effie, 18, are young, virginal newlyweds from rural Georgia on their honeymoon in Cape May, N.J., in 1957, arriving in the off-season of September, when it's largely deserted. Just kids, they are naive and unprepared for their meeting with three worldly hedonists who introduce them to booze, lust, and sexual obsession. Clara is a free-spirited, wealthy socialite, Max is her bodybuilder lover, and Alma is Max's cunning younger half sister. The trio's bawdy, vulgar drunkenness fascinates the newlyweds, especially Henry, who is charmed by Clara and sexually seduced by Alma. Henry's guilt is quickly rationalized as he carelessly surrenders his conscience to his sexual obsession of Alma. His need is insatiable, but her unreasonable demands force him to make promises he cannot keep. Cheek does a good job with his cast; Henry and Effie are finely drawn and their slide from innocence starkly depicted. The novel's ending is particularly startling a memorable final note in this cogent examination of marital infidelity and betrayal.