In this debut novel, a Texas woman reminisces about her past loves.
In 2003, an old friend drops by while Cherie, the owner of an antiques shop in Galveston, Texas, waits for a delivery. Loud, outspoken Delilah knows some of Cherie’s secrets, including that Cherie once worked as a waitress/dancer at the Jewel Box, a topless club in Houston. When the mahogany bar from the Jewel Box finally arrives at the shop, it triggers an extended flashback that consumes the bulk of the narrative. In 1968, desperate to earn money to care for her toddler, newly divorced Cherie agrees to join her friend Kat at the Jewel Box. A small-town girl, Cherie is so petrified of this new venture that she vomits in the car on the way. She adjusts, though, and befriends the bar’s manager, Beau, who offers her sensible, fatherly advice and book recommendations. At the club, Cherie also meets Gabe, an unhappily married carpenter and her polar opposite. He’s quiet; she’s chatty. He’s rude; she strives to be ladylike. After their first kiss, she falls for him. During the next 30 years, the two experience an intense on-again, off-again relationship. In attempts to move on, both intermittently become involved with other people over the years. Liberal use of references to current events and pop culture keeps the book firmly tethered to the time period, and most secondary characters, particularly Cherie’s daughter and Gabe’s mother, feel fully developed. Yet, although scenes at the club are usually vivid, later pages feel superficial and rushed in an attempt to cover 30 years in 300 pages. Especially in the early pages, the dialogue-heavy narrative sometimes relies on artificial-sounding conversations to move the plot or impart descriptions—“You’re five foot three and I’m five seven”—though later pages contain some delightful gems: “I loved doing his laundry and folded his socks and underwear as though they were the shroud of Turin.” The story contains some crude language but, given its early topless-club setting, surprisingly few extended sex scenes. Nonetheless, the neatly done happily-ever-after ending should satisfy romance readers.
Melodramatic romance that rewards readers in for the long haul.