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SO, SO GOODStylist (The Top 10 Books of 2019)

‘The beaches were empty, the stores were closed and after sunset all the houses on New Hampshire Avenue stood dark’

September 1957.

Newlyweds Henry and Effie arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon.

Young, naïve and already disappointed by the unexpected dullness of married life, they soon fall prey to a decadent and glamorous set – beautiful socialite Clara, wealthy playboy Max and his mysterious half-sister Alma.

As the torrid summer comes to an end and the empty beach town becomes their playground – sneaking into abandoned summer homes, sailing, making love and drinking a great deal of gin – Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with devastating consequences that reverberate through the rest of their lives.


What a treat. Glamorous and nostalgic and very sexy, Cape May is a novel about marriage, lust, shabby seaside towns and lots of gin. Brilliantly unsettling - one of those books that stays with you.
Paula Hawkins
Earthy and sensual, raw and real, Cape May is an exquisitely crafted exploration of young love, the power of desire, and the lifelong ramifications of choices made in an instant. Cheek's virtuosic prose reads like a modern classic, piercing through the veneer of male sexual fantasies of the 1950s and rendering a heartbreaking portrait of a man-and a marriage-undone by betrayal.
Whitney Scharer, author of THE AGE OF LIGHT
Cape May is a perfectly mixed cocktail of beauty, desire, and heady desperation. In his gorgeous debut novel, Chip Cheek offers his readers a portrait of mid-century America and the timeless allure of love on the rocks.
Bret Anthony Johnston, internationally bestselling author of REMEMBER ME LIKE THIS
Gorgeous, seductive storytelling, martini-dry prose reminiscent of James Salter's finest. I loved it
Lucy Foley, author of THE HUNTING PARTY
The new Gatsby... With shades of F Scott Fitzgerald, Revolutionary Road and even Mad Men, this is one of those books that transport you to a different era and leaves you mesmerised by bad behaviour and human failings. It is so, so good.
Stylist (The Top 10 Books of 2019)
Cheek's glamorous and nostalgic first novel is an atmospheric tale of sexual longing and loss in 1950s America that nods to classics like The Great Gatsby and Revolutionary Road
Independent (30 Best New Books for 2019)
A swirling vortex of psychological suspense with insights about marriage that recall writers like Margot Livesey and Alice Munro. The 1950s setting, the pellucid prose, and the propulsive plot make this very steamy debut novel about morality and desire feel like a classic.
Kirkus (Starred Review)
This is no soft-focus coming-of-age story... Mood drives the story-the empty beach town exudes a barely hidden sense of threat, of the unknown lurking everywhere-and, as Effie and Henry become closer to playboy Max; his lover, Clara; and his half sister, Alma, we feel the gathering storm in every aspect of the landscape, from the roiling ocean waves to the reverberating clink of the gin bottle. Yes, betrayals are at the core of what happens at Cape May, but beyond that, this remarkable debut novel offers a sobering reminder of how the possibilities of life, when first encountered, often carry their own riptide.
The atmosphere of this torrid Fifties psychodrama lingers long after the final page...Southern honeymooners Henry and Effie [...] are sucked into a Gatsby-esque bacchanal that unleashes powerful, devastating desires... Cheek's deft way with characters and consequence makes for a heady cocktail.
Mail on Sunday (Best New Fiction)
Racy... Cheek's lyrical portrayal of '50s small-town America, and the erotic tales of the gang's escapades are thoroughly sexy and engrossing
A mesmerising tale of sexual desires and discovery... Cheek's sensual first novel leaves you wanting more.
Churchgoing combined with spouse-swapping; picnic lunches complemented by bottomless gin and tonics: the ingredients are all here for an Edward Albee redux with sand between its toes. But a few things help Mr. Cheek dodge the shoals of cliché. First is his beguiling, undemonstrative writing style. The parties are raucous affairs but Mr. Cheek portrays them from a calm remove, which allows him to reveal the stages of Henry's unlikely transformation from a virginal country boy to a scheming roué... He wields the same observational control over the sex scenes, which are plentiful and, against the odds, extremely well done. It's the spell of sexual desire rather than the era's social mores that interests Mr. Cheek... 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.
Wall Street Journal
Chip Cheek's Cape May has superb prose, acute psychological insights, and a riveting narrative; though it's impossible to put down once you've started, to call it a "summer read" is dismissive of Cheek's carefully wrought artfulness.
Lit Hub
Chip Cheek's eminently readable debut, Cape May, takes a pair of innocent newlyweds from Georgia and transports them to an east coast Bacchanalian landscape where everything goes... Their opening up to each other is tenderly depicted by Cheek, whose sensual writing brings immediate intimacy with his characters and their situation... Cheek's novel has an atmospheric nostalgia similar to the debuts of Jess Walter and Lisa Klaussmann... Cheek's success is that the tension lies not just in the promise of an affair between Henry and Alma but also in watching Effie, albeit through her husband's eyes, draw ever closer to the hedonism. The latter half of the book is given over to the affair, written brilliantly, from the illicit sex, the intoxication of desire, the rush of snatched moments, to the pendulum of Henry's emotions... Cheek is also good on the hypocrisies of the era, the double standards applied by lothario Henry to all three of the women.
Irish Times
Chip Cheek's debut novel is an updated New Jersey version of Paradise Lost and he's very finely tuned in to the social mores of the 1950s... A gripping read.
Irish Independent
Seductive... A sweet and bitter ride.
RTE Guide
An intoxicating romance, laced with an anxious tension against a background of racy erotism. At its heart the novel is the study of a marriage; can love overcome betrayal? But it's also about the destructive danger of desire and lust... Dark, turbulent and ultimately thought-provoking, with an ending that echoes around your head.
Australian Women's Weekly
Darkly fascinating
A sensuous story, full of nostalgia and wistful charm.
Sunday Mirror
Daily Mail
Unexpectedly affecting.
New Zealand Listener
Glamorous, very sexy and rather unexpected... This novel is a careful study of the complexities of love and passion. It is written in a pleasant, languid style and captures both the glamour and the hypocrisies of the era... There is plenty of tension to grip the reader, as well as steamy prose to titillate. A short but powerful novel about the way other people can change you.
Nicky Pellegrino, New Zealand Woman's Weekly (Book of the Week)
Chip Cheek's exquisitely-paced, erotically-charged debut novel... What unfolds in this compact novel is a strange and delirious exploration of power and sexuality that reads, at times, like a fevered dream. Cheek deftly creates tension by depicting scenes where the five main characters - Henry, Effie, Clara, Max, and Alma - are always speaking in innuendo and half-truths. At any moment, it seems, a single glance, or word, can lead to something more exciting and dangerous. In the final fifty pages, these tensions are gloriously exploited to full effect, and the prose - always tight and spare - carries us along for the ride... Though dark and, at times, quite brutal, Cape May, as a reading experience, is every bit a seduction in and of itself, and the novel, among its many delights, announces the arrival of a blistering new talent. Chip Cheek brilliantly explores the limits of marriage, of monogamy, and of a certain kind of staunch and superficial American masculinity that still persists today, more than half a century later.
Chicago Review of Books
Chip Cheek's Cape May follows an innocent honeymoon couple as they destroy their marriage before it's even begun. Set in the 1950s, there's lots of gin, sea-sand, drunken sailors and nostalgia and it's a taut, tense, sexy debut.
Anne Cunningham, Irish Sunday Independent
The naive outsiders drawn into a world of decadence is an old trope, but Chip Cheek makes it feel fresh in this unsettling, atmospheric novel.
Anna Carey, Irish Times