The Secret Lives of the Kudzu Debutantes
by Cathy Holton
(Ballantine, $23.95, PG-13) ISBN 1-400-06368-X
****
This sequel to Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes takes readers back into the lives of three women who avenged themselves against their cheating husbands. Eadie Boone is trying to make things work with her husband, Trevor. Nita Broadwell is divorced and about to marry a younger man. Lavonne Zibolsky has dropped eighty pounds, is running a successful delicatessen, and has no man in her life - yet. When Nita’s ex-mother-in-law, the vengeful Virginia Broadwell, sets out to destroy Nita’s new life, the reunited Kudzu Debutantes pull out all the stops to stop her.

Eadie still loves Trevor, who dumped his career as an attorney and seems set to break into the big time as a novelist. They’ve moved to an old house in New Orleans, far from Ithaca, Georgia and the other two women. Trevor is busy, focused on his writing, and Eadie can’t seem to to ignite the spark that fed her career as an artist. Her muse is gone. And as much as she loves Trevor, her marriage may not be far behind. A trip back to Ithaca seems like the only way out.

Yvonne has no man in her life, until she meets Joe, a customer at the deli who seems interested in her. Joe is honest, makes her laugh, and suddenly romance is in the air, if Yvonne will only let Joe get close. As for Nita, she’s set to marry Jimmy Lee Motes, a carpenter who is thirteen years her junior. It’s on Nita that Virginia trains her sights. Virginia has just married wealthy redneck Bob Redmon in order to finance the life to which she’s accustomed. This will give her the means to bankrupt Nita and challenge her for custody of twelve-year-old Whitney.

Except Bob turns out to be not quite as pliable as Virginia expects, and Nita has two smart friends on her side, not to mention a teenage son who has his eyes wide open when it comes to his grandmother. All three of the Kudzu Debutantes (named for a satirical cotillion in which the attendees wear tacky gowns and a headpiece made of kudzu vine) will grow into their new lives along the way.

Eadie and Lavonne are the most interesting of the women. Eadie’s frustration at the loss of her art while her husband’s career takes off is well-done. Lavonne’s life as a gun-shy workaholic will strike a familiar chord with many women, and her tentative romance with Joe is sweet. Joe has a few secrets of his own, and he’s a great match for Lavonne. As for Nita, she’s a bit too willing to believe the best of everyone, even when Virginia’s snake eyes are staring her in the face.

The Secret Lives of the Kudzu Debutantes offers a funny, at times poignant look at life in a small Southern town. It would be worth it to search out the first book, just for the background, but this story stands well enough on its own.

--Cathy Sova


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