Cover image for The scandalous summer of Sissy LeBlanc : a novel
The scandalous summer of Sissy LeBlanc : a novel
Despres, Loraine.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, [2001]

Physical Description:
342 pages ; 25 cm
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Rule Number Forty-eight of The Southern Belle's Handbook might state that '#65533;a proper southern belle never lets on how bored she is," but it's the summer of 1956 and Sissy LeBlanc simply can't help herself. She's been living in stifling old Gentry, Louisiana, since she was born, a trapped in a sham of a marriage to PeeWee LeBlanc -- who, to be perfectly honest, makes 1 skin crawl -- since she was only seventeen. In short, she's fed up, restless, and ready for an adventure. Of course she'd never consider cheating on PeeWee, since she vowed back in '4l remain faithful -- but some days she just can't help but pray that some man will come along and lead her into temptation.

Sissy just never expected her prayers to be answered on that breathless summer day as she sat smoking on her porch swing, contemplating suicide by aspirin and Coca-Cola. For although she might have been fixated on the taut muscles of the lineman shimmying down the telephone pole across the street, she hadn't allowed herself to imagine that he'd be none other than her high school sweetheart Parker Davidson! The former football star and toast of Gentry, Parker had left town in a flash fourteen years before without as much as a wave good-bye (not that she could blame him), but now he was back, standing in her very own kitchen, sipping Cokes over cracked ice and leaning in for a kiss. A kiss Sissy wants to resist but returns with passion -- at least until she opens her eyes to see the faces of her three children pressed against the screen door!

A sassy, sexy, and humorous tale featuring a captivating cast of zany characters that leap off the page, The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc is a charming romp that shifts back and forth in time to reveal just how Sissy got stuck in Gentry -- and how she ultimately breaks out in triumph. Irrepressibly lively and audacious, this highly entertaining novel will resonate in the hearts and minds of readers everywhere.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

This debut novel by prominent television writer Despres (whose credits include the infamous "Who Shot J. R.?" episode of Dallas) tells the story of an unhappy housewife and the trouble she stirs up while conducting an adulterous love affair during the long, hot summer of 1956. Set in the small southern town of Gentry, Louisiana, this tale of lust, jealousy, and regret unfolds playfully amid a colorful cast of eccentric small-town characters. And although the story maintains a humorous bent, it doesn'st shy away from addressing serious issues, such as racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and sexual abuse. Sissy LeBlanc, married for 14 years to a man she detests and mother of three children she can barely stand, finds herself bored, lonely, and up for some excitement. Conveniently, her old high-school sweetheart mysteriously appears back in town. Their reacquaintance sets in motion a series of events that reveals shocking secrets and hard truths for many of the story's main characters. Fans of romance and contemporary women's fiction will especially enjoy this rather quirky novel. Kathleen Hughes

Library Journal Review

While most readers may not immediately recognize the author's name, many will be familiar with her TV work. She's written for Dynasty, The Waltons, Love Boat, and Knots Landing and is probably best known for the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of Dallas. Her television background serves her well in this debut novel. Her 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. When her high school sweetheart comes back to Gentry, LA, after a 14-year absence, Sissy decides that it is time to make some changes in her life if they cause a little scandal, so be it. 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. Recommended for public libraries with large collections of women's fiction. Pam Kingsbury, Florence, AL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One A girl has to find out if there's life before death. Rule Number Forty-seven The Southern Belle's Handbook Sissy LeBlanc sank down on her porch swing and heard its old chains groan. She threw back her head and rubbed a cut lemon over her hair to bleach it a little in the sun, all the while wondering if you could really kill yourself with aspirin and Coca-Cola. Of course, she wasn't seriously considering suicide. Sissy never seriously considered suicide. Besides, only a teenager would try to poison herself with aspirin and Coke. She figured a bottle of a hundred would do it. Along with that six-pack of Cokes in her kitchen pantry. God, it was breathless today. She ran her fingers through her hair. She'd just washed it and had hoped that letting it dry out here in what passed for a breeze would give her some relief. It didn't. She was too restless to do anything much in this heat, not that housework had ever been one of Sissy's priorities. She'd been restless for days, feeling as if she'd burst if something didn't happen. Of course that was crazy, because nothing ever happened here in Gentry. Except she'd heard Parker Davidson was back. Parker Davidson, her high school sweetheart. She flipped her wet hair over her face and leaned her chest on her knees. The honeysuckle growing wild along one of the six square columns that held up the porch roof was making another assault on the house, sending tendrils through the cracks in the warped planks under the swing. She'd have to crawl under the porch and do something about it. Soon. Parker hadn't even called. Not that there was any reason why he should after all these years. She wasn't sure she wanted to see him anyway. He was probably fat and full of himself now. God, this heat was making her crazy. She sat up and saw a telephone truck had stopped across the street in front of a scarlet oleander bush on the side of the Methodist church. A lineman had already stepped out. She didn't get a good look at his face, but he was big like Parker. That boy was sure traipsing through her mind today. If she went into town, she'd probably see his likeness in half the men who turned a corner or walked in front of her on the street. As the lineman worked his way up the telephone pole, she saw his suntanned arms glisten with sweat. She watched his back muscles bunch up and smooth out under his wet work shirt. Memories of old feelings crept over her. She reached for a spray of honeysuckle and wound it in her hair. Lighting a cigarette, she found herself staring up at the lineman's thighs. She couldn't help but notice how his shrink-to-fit jeans had shrunk just right. She lifted her skirt a tad to let in the breeze. The lineman pulled himself onto the top crossbar and bent forward to cut the wisteria vines that had twisted around the wires. Sissy fanned away the smoke hovering in the still air in front of her. Then he bent backward under the wires. He hung upside down by his knees and leaned way out. She held her breath. Reaching his arms above his head, he sheared away the vines. Clumps of wisteria fell through the damp air. Suddenly, Sissy saw him begin to slip off the crossbar. The ground beneath him was littered with broken cement and covered with gnarled roots. She imagined him falling head first. Dying right there in front of her. Instead he tossed his clippers, jack-knifed up, grabbed hold of the crossbar. And waved. Jesus! Sissy blew out a column of smoke. Of course he'd reminded her of Parker Davidson. He was Parker Davidson! And he was showing off just like he'd done in high school. She stood up and waved back. Why'd he have to see her today of all days, when she looked like a drowned cat? As he made his way down the telephone pole, she slipped inside. Sissy wasn't really beautiful, but men never noticed. With her deep green eyes, her shoulder-length auburn hair that swung when she moved, and the way she moved as if she enjoyed just being inside her body, men had always paid her lots of attention. Although after fourteen years of marriage to Peewee LeBlanc, she'd begun to need reassurance. Leaning into the little round mirror she'd hung by the kitchen door, she freshened her lipstick and grimaced. She took her hair and the eyes for granted. She was worrying about the almost imperceptible lines at the corners of her mouth and the tiny fleshy places that seemed to have dropped overnight from the edge of her chin. But then, Sissy thought, it's not what a girl looks like that captivates a man. It's how hard he has to work for her. A smart girl makes a man sweat. She decided to make that Rule Number Sixteen in The Southern Belle's Handbook, which was what Sissy had ironically titled that compendium of helpful hints and rules her mother and grandmother had tried so hard to instill in her. Her mother had wanted her to grow up a gracious Southern lady. Her grandmother just didn't want the bastards to grind her down. Sissy had added to it over the years, until the Southern Belle's Handbook became her personal credo. She kept it in her head, assigning numbers at random, but then Sissy always had a random relationship with numbers. Through the screen door, she saw Parker walk across the street. She filled two tall glasses with ice and grabbed a couple of Cokes from the pantry. All thought of mixing them with aspirin had... (Continues...) Excerpted from The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc by Loraine Despres. Copyright © 2001 by Loraine Despres. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.