Tuesday, October 4, 2016

3.5 Stars - Cakewalk by Rita Mae Brown

Publisher: Bantam Books
Historical Fiction
Buy: AMZ


About the Book

Continuing in the exuberant tradition of Six of One, Bingo, and Loose Lips, New York Times bestselling author Rita Mae Brown returns to her much-loved fictional hamlet of Runnymede, whose memorable citizens are welcoming both the end of the Great War and the beginning of a new era.

The night a riot breaks out at the Capitol Theater movie house-during a Mary Pickford picture, no less-you can bet that the Hunsenmeir sisters, Louise and Julia, are nearby. Known locally as Wheezie and Juts, the inimitable, irrepressible, distinctly freethinking sisters and their delightful circle of friends are coming of age in a shifting world and are determined to understand their place in it. Across town, the well-to-do Chalfonte siblings are preparing for the upcoming wedding of brother Curtis. But for youngest sister Celeste, the celebration brings about a change she never expected and a lesson about love she ll not soon forget.

Set against the backdrop of America emerging from World War I, Cakewalk is an outrageous and affecting novel about a small town where ideas of sin and virtue, love and sex, men and women, politics and religion, can be as divided as the Mason-Dixon Line that runs right through it and where there's no problem that can't be cured by a good yarn and an even better scotch. With her signature Southern voice, Rita Mae Brown deftly weaves generations of family stories into a spirited patchwork quilt of not-so-simple but joyously rich life.

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So, if you've never read this series, know they are not written/published in chronological order. If you like a straight timeline, it sort of goes like this:

Six of One (though this one hops back and forth)
Cakewalk
Loose Lips
The Sand Castle
Bingo

I'm giving this 3.5 stars. With this finished I have read all of Brown's Runnymeade stories. I didn't enjoy the last two published, Loose Lips and The Sand Castle, and I thought I had come to the point where I wouldn't read any more. There's something about the time period that drew me in this time, though, and that cover is a delight.

It's been more than a decade since I read Six of One, the original story of Celeste Chalfonte, and Bingo (which is all Juts and Wheezy - sisters who battle constantly - as cantankerous old broads), and I can't rely on memory to note continuity errors. Doesn't matter to me, because I like Cakewalk for what it is - a story within the greater Runnymeade universe that centers on Celeste, who is the strongest character in the series. 

Everything takes place within a months-long span in the early 20s. Wealthy Celeste copes with losing one lover to her brother and gaining a new one, while housekeeper Cora copes with daughters Juts and Wheezy. If you're familiar with the other books, you know what to expect.

I'm almost tempted to revisit Six of One to see how the stories mesh.

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