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Praise for Loraine Despres’

The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc

Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell    Southern Belle's Handbook


THE BAD BEHAVIOR OF BELLE CANTRELL

KIRKUS MAGAZINE:
“Young widow tosses caution-and bloomers-to the wind in 1920s Louisiana.”

Julie Glass, National Book Award Winner for 'Three Junes' Wrote:

In the magnificent Belle, Loraine Despres has once again created a character to delight, entertain, and inspire us all, even those of us a few generations further along. Despres has a talent for cooking up plenty of sensual southern sultriness—and a sharp eye for memorable period detail—but what captivated me most was her ominous portrayal of just how easily petty greed and local resentments can fester into home-grown evil. Belle’s story, in the end, is more than a saucy romp; it’s a cautionary tale for our own uneasy times.”

"The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell"
by Loraine Despres (William Morrow, $23.95)

At first glance, this is an upbeat little romance novel set near New Orleans in 1920. Read a bit deeper, however, and you'll discover that author Loraine Despres uses heroine Belle Cantrell, a widow and mother of one, to tackle the issues of racism and the treatment of women in a setting dominated by good old boys who belong to the Ku Klux Klan and desperately don't want females to vote.

"Now, I know you're almost 10 years older than me, but I'm willing to overlook that," says the white Cajun foreman on Belle's farm, hired by her mother-in-law after the black foreman is chased out of town by vigilantes. "I want to marry you, Belle ... I'll order us up a Klan wedding with all the trimmings. I can even get us an airplane. What do you say?"

Her reply: "You're fired."

Chicago Tribune
9/28/05
By Anne E. Stein

The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell

Tired of mourning her husband, Belle Cantrell does what any aspiring suffragette would do—she bobs her hair—and the town of Gentry, Louisiana, will never be the same. Before twenty-four hours have passed, her mother-in-law hires a handsome new overseer for their plantation, Rafe Berlin drives into town in his Stutz Bearcat, and drunken hooligans terrorize the preacher of the local Negro church.

The rich symbolism of Belle emerging into full womanhood as she offers the barber her virgin tresses sets the tone for this sassy but poignant novel. On the surface, The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell is a light-hearted tale of the adventures of a widow struggling with the longings that have begun to “float around the backwaters of her mind.” But at heart, this novel is a multi-layered commentary encompassing such issues as race relations, religious bigotry, women’s suffrage, and social mores. Although Belle’s insightful observations reveal the dark side of her neighbors, the villains are rounded characters (“Belle recognized in him a hungry child…beginning the next bite before swallowing the last, in case someone snatched the food off his dish”), and the heroes have their warts (“I never knew you Southerners cared so much for your darkies”). That no one in this novel is politically correct gives it greater authenticity and relevance.

This is a book that will be enjoyed in college dorms for its amusing scenes of a woman breaking free from the restraints of the 1920s, and in reading groups for its brilliant symbolism and thought-provoking themes. Beautifully written in tight prose that never flounders, The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell is entertainment with a capital “E.” Outstanding!

THE HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY
01/16/2014

Murder, Mayhem Follow Heroine Along Merry Way

"Belle Cantrell felt guilty about killing her husband and she hated that. Feeling gulity, that is. A lady shouldn't do something she will feel guilty about later." This is the opening paragraph of "The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell." In a nutshell, this book is about murder, adultery and regular church-going.

Reading the adventures of Belle is like listening to a friend recount a story. You know when the story starts the ending will be good. With wit and humor, the author unfolds Belle's life. The story is set in Louisiana in the early 1920s. Belle dares to have her hair "bobbed," buys an automobile as soon as she can afford one, wears riding britches in public and is arrested for swimming in a bathing suit. She becomes involved with a Jewish man from "up North," and soon has to deal with the wrath of the Ku Klux Klan. And Belle takes up the cause of equality, fighting for the right to vote. She's simply a disgrace to "proper" women everywhere. Belle actually tries to follow the "Primer of Propriety" which is, of course, the "Southern Girls Guide to Men and Other Perils of Modern Living." The best advice of the book is, "The most important thing about virtue is to talk as though you are for it." This book is a hoot!

The author lives in Beverly Hills but is a native of Amite, La. This is the follow-up novel to "The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc." It turns out Sissy is Belle's granddaughter. Such fun women! Mary Vaughan Brown is a Harvest resident.

The Huntsville Times
10/30/05
By Mary Vaughan Brown for The Times

Belle epoque
A 'Sissy LeBlanc' prequel starring her grandmother, Belle Cantrell

THE BAD BEHAVIOR OF BELLE CANTRELL
By Loraine Despres
William Morrow, $23.95

In 2001, screenwriter Loraine Despres made her debut with "The Scandalous Summer of, Sissy LeBlanc," a rollicking tale of a woman coming into her own in small-town Gentry, La. She followed that up with Sissy's condensed wisdom, "The Southern Belle's Handbook: Sissy Leblanc's Rules to Live By." Now she's back with a prequel, "The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell," which tells the story of Sissy's grandmother, Belle.

Belle's husband, Claude, returns from the Great War, but dies in a fight at a card game his first night at home. Belle fears that defending her honor was the cause of the fight; Claude's got a temper, after all, and who knows what he might do when confronted with a photograph of his wife in one of those scanty bathing suits that have become the rage in 1920? Belle sets out to make a life for herself, and, as you might suspect, it's an unconventional one... Like Sissy, Belle takes unpopular stands -- in Gentry, being a suffragette is not exactly smiled upon, and having an affair with a Jewish veteran who has come to Gentry to help his relatives run their store is a cause for local outrage . With a screenwriter's skill, Despres touches on all the pressure points of a Southern town in the grip of change.

Readers who loved Despres' earlier work will see that a taste for adventure, not to mention doing the right thing, runs in the family. And the stage is set for yet another spin-off volume, "The Southern Belle's Guide to Men" or perhaps "The Primer of Propriety." Spunky Belle is a good companion, with her wit and wisdom: "A girl has got to live," she says, and so we do.

New Orleans Times-Picayune
11/05/05
By Susan Larson, Book Editor

'Bad Behavior' Has Its Place (And Saving Grace)

If authors Loraine Despres and Timothy Schaffert are half as colorful as their novels' characters, folks at Lemuria Book Store are in for a treat. The authors will team for a book signing and reading at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the I-55 book store in Jackson.

Despres' latest work is The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell, and Schaffert has written The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God. The novels are worlds apart in subject, but the characters are disarmingly wacky and charming. Bad Behavior introduces readers to Belle Cantrell, the grandmother of character Sissy LeBlanc. Sissy first came to readers' attention in Southern Belle's Handbook and the best-selling The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc. Belle has her own "primer of propriety" and "Southern girls' guide to life," rules unfortunately she makes but breaks — over and over and over. No lady deserving of that name would ever indulge in a public demonstration of affection."

What happens, though, when a hot-blooded, ab-flexing Cajun comes her way? Or when she's left to run a plantation after her husband died defending her honor because she wore one of those turn-of-the-century "bathing" suits? Belle turns heads and sends tongues wagging as she learns the ins and outs of women's liberation, family responsibility, truth and love, all the while sharpening her own keen wit and sharp tongue. Throw in Miss Effie, Cady and Rafe, along with a touch of history, and life gets pretty exciting. After all, in the early 1900s, being a "lady" isn't hard. But being a woman, especially one with a passion for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, no matter what? That's a different story.

The Jackson Times
By Susan O'Bryan

Woman Writers Summer 06'

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 romp with romance interwoven with issues of decency that mothers can feel good about passing on to their daughters when they are finished reading it.

By Julie Schoerke
WomenWriters.net

For the full text of this rave review go to: http://www.womenwriters.net/summer06/bellecantrell.html

Loraine Despres - best-selling author of The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc - has created a delightful character, and The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell is a breath of fresh air. It's not to be missed. I could have used her philosophy when I was a young woman. Heck, I can use it even now. 

Bookloons.com
Mary Ann Smyth, July 2006 
For the full text of this review go to:
http://www.bookloons.com/cgi-bin/Review.asp?bookid=6532

The plot is all engrossing as the book proved to be impossible to put down.

TMC Reviews
Vianna Renaud, August 2006
For the full text of this review go to: http://tcm-ca.com/reviews/1175.html

This novel mixes a pleasurable read and serious issues in America's past into a delightful story. Despres creates a very real character in Belle... [and] a story that reads deeper than just another "summer beach" novel.

If you are looking for a book that is both fun and interesting at the same time, give The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell a try. You might even learn a little history.

The Daily Collegian
Reviewed by Megan Rundle
For the full text of this review go to:
http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/2006/09/09-08-06tdc/09-08-06darts-04.asp

Be sure to add this one to your reading list.

BestSellersWorld.com
Reviewed by Nancy Eaton
For the full text of this review go to:
http://www.bestsellersworld.com/reviews/despres-the_bad_behavior_of_belle_cantrell.htm

Belle Cantrell reminded me of someone close to me.. myself. She knows what she SHOULD act like, what the people of the town think she should act like, what she doesn't want people to think of her.. but... she also knows what she WANTS to act like....

A book... with enough "guts" to make you think about things... freedom, racism, woman's rights.... and love.

Dew on the Kudzu
Reviewed by Idgie
For the full text of this review go to:
http://dewbookreviews.blogspot.com/2006/08/bad-behavior-of-belle-cantrell.html

Belle is smart, witty, and determined. The courage she shows time and again as she faces the "rules" placed on "good" women, the opinion of neighbors, learning new skills such as bookkeeping and even facing up to men with guns – all in the name of standing up for what she believes in. Her fortitude is the center of this story. While all of the characters surrounding her are wonderfully written in their own right, Belle is the "belle of the ball" and tells of the role many women played in the history of this country. No, she didn’t do everything perfectly but she certainly tried.

Once Upon a Romance, A Place for the Discriminating Reader and Writer of Fiction, not just about romance any more...
Reviewed by Lori
For the full text of this review go to:
http://www.onceuponaromance.net/TheBadBehaviorReview.htm

So ... why does a middle-aged, married, male academic economist from Utah read books about the fast approaching middle-age of independent women from pre-A/C Louisiana?

In truth, I don't. I've read one set of books that fits that description: I read quite a bit, but not many books. Most of those are non-fiction.

The last living writer who got me to read more than one of their books was Patrick O'Brian. But, I'll be waiting patiently for the next book by Ms. Despres.

She's doing something very good to keep me hooked. What that is, I'm not quite sure. Her characters are funny and offbeat, yet true to form. Her books are fairly light reading, but there are deep musings every chapter or two as well. The historical detail is lush but not overwhelming. I care about the characters without feeling like my buttons are being pushed. Many novels - like, say The DaVinci Code - push so many buttons you rush through them blindly like a dog answering the doorbell. But not these books ...

I remember what my life was like when I read The Winter of Our Discontent. I know where I was when I read The Wine Dark Sea. Not to pick on The DaVinci Code, but I don't associate it with a specific point in my life ... but I can fix The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc squarely in a dreary winter of anthrax letters and news from Afghanistan in late 2001. I don't know why, but I know it's a good thing.

P.S. I harbor no illusions that I am like Rafe or Parker ... but I'm damn sure I'm not Bouree.

VoluntaryXchange
Reviewed by David Tufte
For the full text of this review go to:
http://voluntaryxchange.typepad.com/voluntaryxchange/2006/09/loraine_despres.html

Praise for Loraine Despres’
THE SCANDALOUS SUMMER OF SISSY LEBLANC

Summertime, and Sissy's uneasy

There's a whole lotta shakin' going on in Gentry, La., and wild child Sissy LeBlanc is at the root of most of it

"You can't change the past, but a smart girl won't let that stop her." That's Rule No. 101 from the Southern Belle Handbook, the ongoing creation of Sissy LeBlanc, probably the sexiest, wildest girl ever to live in Gentry, La., and the heroine of Loraine Despres' hilariously diverting first novel, "The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc."

Louisiana native Despres's screenwriting skills (she wrote the "Who Shot J.R.?'' episode of Dallas) are in full bloom in this fine and funny first novel. Think Robert Harling ("Steel Magnolias") or Fannie Flagg ("Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe"), those stories of tough Southern women who don't shy away from happiness or trouble. Sissy may have some growing up to do, even at the age of 31, but it's fun to watch her do it. It's never too late to have a happy ending, and it's never too late to do the right thing. That's the take-home from Gentry, the gospel according to Loraine Despres.

11/04/01
By Susan Larson
Book editor/The Times-Picayune

“Set in the small southern town of Gentry, Louisiana, this tale of lust, jealousy and regret unfolds playfully a amid a colorful cast of eccentric small-town characters. And although the story maintains a humorous bent, it doesn’t shy away from addressing serious issues, such as racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and sexual abuse...Fans of romance and contemporary women’s fiction will especially enjoy this rather quirky novel.”

Booklist

“The author’s... timing is excellent and the plot twists are both delightful and surprising. Sissy LeBlanc lives by a code she calls ‘The Southern Belle’s Handbook.’ When a pithy idea pops into her head, she instinctively knows how that code applies to her life. Sissy understands her role as granddaughter of a suffragette, daughter of a newspaper editor, wife of Peewee, and mother of three, but lately she’s been feeling restless... Readers may be reminded of the movies Fried Green Tomatoes and Something To Talk About. Despres’s heroine has spunk, her villains get their comeuppance, and her ending is psychologically satisfying.”

Pam Kingsbury, Library Journal

The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc

By Loraine Despres

Emotions seem to steam off the printed page, mingling that roiling, coiling Southern vengeance for charm, deceit, and all manner of consequence in Loraine Despres’ first novel, The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc. Set in Gentry, Louisiana, in the early days of the Civil Rights movement during the summer of 1956, the reader is treated to a rare taste of Southern hospitality, philosophy, politics, and lust. Driven by pride, prejudice, and love there are few shades of gray.

The author, herself a Louisiana native, infuses heroine Sissy LeBlanc with dozens of rules that make up The Southern Belle’s Handbook. These wise and witty pronouncements gleaned from her mother and grandmother, and of course, herself, bridge generations, preserve sanity and lay a foundation for women’s liberation. For example, Rule Number Thirty-two: You have to take your life into your own hands; otherwise you can be damned sure someone else will take it in theirs. – Belle Cantrell, Sissy’s grandmother.

The author is well versed in film, and famous for writing the “Who Shot J.R.” episode of “Dallas”. As a novelist her writing is sharp and original, and filled with surprising twists and turns. Published by William Morrow, the book has been named as a Featured Alternate Selection of the Literary Guild and the Doubleday Book Club, and has been chosen as a Discover Pick by Barnes and Noble.

In the spirit of Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes, Despres has covered life’s darker side with humor and female cunning. The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc is tantamount to opening a two-pound box of Ethel M chocolates, sinking your teeth into a truffle, and wanting to devour the whole box. The writing is richly emotional and, even though it could be called a page-turner, savoring each chapter will prolong one’s reading pleasure. During these challenging times, a good literary escape is worth its weight in calories.

Review by Linda Lane

"Loraine Despres has returned to her roots as a Southern belle to write a funny and poignant novel called "The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc"

Connie Martinson host of the nationally syndicated Connie Martinson Talks Books and columnist for the Beverly Hills Courier.

"Despres weaves honest and devastating portraits of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and self respect into her colorful tapestry of the American South, a rich story full of humor, surprises and heartbreaks."

NATIONAL WOMEN'S REVIEW

“Not only is this novel the charming tale of a Southern belle reinventing her role as a woman and searching for some adventure in life, but it is also the Southern Belle’s Handbook. Despres creatively weaves ‘Southern wisdom’ on how to nab a man, how to pick a man, and how to keep him happy into Sissy LeBlanc’s story of struggle between a complacent married life and a walk on the wild side. So forget those tired words of advice found in the latest women’s magazines and let your imagination run wild with this captivating novel.”

Irv Rudman, Beverly Hills Weekly

“A thoroughly enjoyable tale about life in a small country town, but more specifically the life of an inhabitant, one Sissy LeBlanc. And believe me: A lot goes on... Despres captures the flavor of the town to perfection. (She grew up in Amite, La.) Her characters are all well-drawn, and the plot will grip you. All in all a very good read that should make a very good movie with some very good parts for some very good actors.”

Jill Jackson’s HOLLYWOOD, by KING FEATURES in 1700 papers nation-wide

“Sissy LeBlanc is poised to give the Ya-Ya Sisterhood a run for its money.” Centerpieces, the newsletter for Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, Tulane University.

(Ok, this last isn’t a proper review. It’s part of an announcement for her reading at Tulane, but we included it, because Loraine loves it.)

So ... why does a middle-aged, married, male academic economist from Utah read books about the fast approaching middle-age of independent women from pre-A/C Louisiana?

In truth, I don't. I've read one set of books that fits that description: I read quite a bit, but not many books. Most of those are non-fiction.

The last living writer who got me to read more than one of their books was Patrick O'Brian. But, I'll be waiting patiently for the next book by Ms. Despres.

She's doing something very good to keep me hooked. What that is, I'm not quite sure. Her characters are funny and offbeat, yet true to form. Her books are fairly light reading, but there are deep musings every chapter or two as well. The historical detail is lush but not overwhelming. I care about the characters without feeling like my buttons are being pushed. Many novels - like, say The DaVinci Code - push so many buttons you rush through them blindly like a dog answering the doorbell. But not these books ...

I remember what my life was like when I read The Winter of Our Discontent. I know where I was when I read The Wine Dark Sea. Not to pick on The DaVinci Code, but I don't associate it with a specific point in my life ... but I can fix The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc squarely in a dreary winter of anthrax letters and news from Afghanistan in late 2001. I don't know why, but I know it's a good thing.

P.S. I harbor no illusions that I am like Rafe or Parker ... but I'm damn sure I'm not Bouree.

VoluntaryXchange
Reviewed by David Tufte
For the full text of this review go to:
http://voluntaryxchange.typepad.com/voluntaryxchange/2006/09/loraine_despres.html


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Southern Novels by Loraine Despres