Shelby Hearon's excellent twelfth novel opens, ""And they lived happily ever after."" It ends, ""Once upon a time."" The opening and closing lines echo many of the themes of the novel. The book opens with Cile Tate leaving her Presbyterian preacher husband to return to the early love of her life, Drew Williams. When Cile decides to leave Eben Tate, she is amazed that he announces her abandonment of him and their two daughters from his pulpit. All this makes Cile a fallen woman in the eyes of the church members and the citizens of Waco, the bastion of Baptist religion in Texas. The title reflects one of the Baptist tenets that is so often satirized - that hug dancing is a prelude to fornication. Cile and Drew are hug dancing in a serious way. Drew's mother, Lila Beth, introduces Cile to his socialite wife, Mary Virginia. It is through Lila Beth that Cile and Drew resume the love they knew as young people. The novel begins almost at the end and then twists back and forth over the three months it takes for Cile and Drew, once teenaged hug dancers, to find a way to ""live happily ever after.
SHELBY HEARON is a former president of the Texas Institute of Letters and a charter inductee into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame. She was born in Kentucky, grew up in Texas, and now lives in Burlington, Vermont.