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The Ex-Debutante

ISBN: 10-0312354967

By: Linda Francis Lee
Reviewer: Andy Wilson

January 2009

The Ex-Debutante, a novel by Linda Francis Lee, author of The Devil in the Junior League, is an “of course” novel. Of course, Carlisle Wainwright Cushing has problems with her demanding, over the top, old money, Southern mother-in-law, who’s been married one too many times. Of course, Carlisle can’t return to her law office in Boston where the biggest case of her career awaits; instead she is going to rescue the family’s debutante ball and handle her mother’s divorce case. Why wouldn’t she, she’s the protagonist of a chick-lit novel.

Not to be a rebel Lee inserts all the standards of the genre, a waltz, a rebellious teen who responds to reverse psychology, infertility, a boring boyfriend, an attic teaming with secrets, allusions to The Godfather, and an arch nemesis who is devilishly handsome.

This is not to suggest that The Ex-Debutante is poor reading. If you’ve got a beach trip, a one o’clock doctor’s appointment, or a layover you just might want to read this novel. But be forewarned Lee is no Agatha Christe, there are no--and I mean no--surprises.

Like a neighborhood diner with odd ambience and a limited menu Carlisle attracts fascinating, fully developed characters but fails to intrigue herself. The “snide” aside remarks are not as witty as Lee thinks and most Carlisle need not keep to herself. Instead she would have been a more gripping narrator if the reader wasn’t the only person she spoke to with any shred of tenacity.

As the novel develops the action labors and one can’t help but long that Carlisle’s surprisingly compelling college flashbacks would last longer than the present day action that is condensed and surface. Of course you should probably read The Ex-Debutante. It is a finer offering from its genre and occasionally Lee hits a note that is both tender and kindly anti-trite. You’ll be hearing about this one at your next girl’s night out and it is always better to have something to share rather than being mute and nursing a cosmo.


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