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The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell    by Loraine Despres Amazon.com order for
Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell
by Loraine Despres
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HarperCollins, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

By today's standards, Belle Cantrell really doesn't have bad behavior. But in the 1920s in Gentry, Louisiana, a relatively young widow was regarded as somewhat of a hussy if she bobbed her hair and went swimming in her bloomers. According to the Propriety Primer of Belle Cantrell, 'Decent women don't swim.' Conversely, in Belle's Southern Guide to Men and Other Perils of Modern Life, 'Life is uncertain. A girl has to grab hold while she still has a firm grip.'

Belle finds it hard to be a proper Southern lady. The things you aren't supposed to say or do or wear are contrary to her outlook on life. She manages to break almost every genteel rule, and pays the price. Belle can't ignore the fight for equal rights and when the Ku Klux Klan emerges in her sleepy little town, she must do something about it. With her daughter Cady and lover Rafe, Belle manages to overcome her feeling of guilt over her husband Claude's death a happening that Belle saw as an opportunity to join the fight for women's suffrage and to drive a car. The locals consider an automobile 'that good time house on wheels.'

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.

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