Summer is not over yet, and I wanted a leisurely, fun read. Dorothea Benton Frank’s By Invitation Only was a perfect choice. It’s light but not silly; it’s romantic, but not naive; and it celebrates the peculiar traits and themes that make and tie families together.
Publisher’s Summary: The Lowcountry of South Carolina is where By Invitation Only begins at a barbecue engagement party thrown by Diane English Stiftel, her brother Floyd, and her parents to celebrate her son’s engagement. On this gorgeous, magical night, the bride’s father, Alejandro Cambria, a wealthy power broker whose unbelievably successful career in private equity made him one of Chicago’s celebrated elite, discovers the limits and possibilities of cell phone range. While the mother of the bride, Susan Kennedy Cambria, who dabbles in the world of public relations and believes herself deserving of every square inch of her multimillion-dollar penthouse and imaginary carrara marble pedestal, learns about moonshine and dangerous liaisons.
By Invitation Only is a tale of two families, one struggling to do well, one well to do, and one young couple—the privileged daughter of Chicago’s crème de la crème and the son of hard-working Southern peach farmers.
Dorothea Benton Frank offers a funny, sharp, and deeply empathetic novel of two very different worlds—of limousines and pickup trucks, caviars and pigs, skyscrapers and ocean spray—filled with a delightful cast of characters who all have something to hide and a lot to learn. A difference in legal opinions, a headlong dive from grace, and an abrupt twist will reveal the truth of who they are and demonstrate, when it truly counts, what kind of grit they have. Are they living the life they want, what regrets do they hold, and how would they remake their lives if they were given the invitation to do so?
By Invitation Only is classic Dorothea Benton Frank—a mesmerizing Lowcountry Tale that roars with spirit, humor, and truth, and forces us to reconsider our notions of what it means to be a Have or a Have Not.
A novel by an author who says: “I’m the one you want to sit next to when things are dull,” is likely to be as interesting as the woman who said it. Dorothea Benton Frank said in an interview with Tina Jordan for the New York Times, “I know there are those who say humor diminishes the literary value of a story, but I think humor is desperately needed in every corner of this world. Desperately. Humor is a mighty powerful tool when correctly applied.”
And it is correctly applied in By Invitation Only It is also fun when an author finds a redemptive and realistic way for a flawed character to grow and evolve. This inspires we mere humans to grow and evolve as well.
As a lighthearted summer read, By Invitation Only allows readers to vicariously enjoy the deliciousness of a Southern peach but also appreciate the struggle farmers face at the hands of nature’s whims.
By Invitation Only is a lovely book as the summer comes to a close.
Happy reading, Susan C.
Also by Dorothea Benton Frank:
Same Beach, Next Year – A chance meeting on the Isle of Palms brings former sweethearts, Adam Stanley and Eve Landers together again. As Adam and Eve get caught up on their lives, their partners strike up a deep friendship and an unexpected attraction. Year after year, Adam, Eliza, Eve, and Carl eagerly await their reunion at the island, where they grow closer with each passing day, building a friendship that will withstand financial catastrophe, family tragedy, and devastating heartbreak.
All Summer Long – follows one charming New York couple – prominent interior designer Olivia Ritchie and her husband Nicholas Seymour, an English professor and true southern gentleman. They are seemingly polar opposites, yet magnetically drawn together and in love for more than fourteen years. As they prepare to relocate to Charleston, S.C., Olivia, the ultimate New Yorker, has reservations about the promise she made to retire in the Lowcountry, where Nick wants to return home and lead a more peaceful life. They are moving north to south, fast pace versus slow pace and downsizing. Nick is ecstatic. Olivia is not. She can’t let Nick know that their finances are not what he thought. Her client list is evaporating, their monetary reserves are dwindling and maybe that house she picked out on Sullivans Island needs too much work. Thank God, for her assistant, Roni Larini, her right (and sometimes left) hand. As they find themselves pondering the next step of their lives, Olivia and Nick travel with her billionaire clients and their friends and are swept up into the world of the ultra-rich and explore the globe with a cast of zany eccentrics over one tumultuous, hot summer.
All the Single Ladies – Lisa St. Clair knows a thing or two about weathering storms. A dedicated nurse with a healthy sense of humor, she single-handedly raised her truculent daughter, Marianne, after her ex walked out on them twenty-four years ago, sending them a lottery ticket once a year as support. One day he reappeared and lured their daughter into a dubious but lucrative venture in Colorado. Now mother and daughter aren’t speaking. So when Kathy Harper, Lisa’s favorite patient, loses her battle with cancer, Lisa finds herself drawing closer to Carrie and Suzanne, the devoted friends who were always by Kathy’s side. As these three women’s lives inevitably connect, they share their concerns about men, getting older, and the horrors of maintaining financial stability. Suzanne’s ninety-nine-year-old grandmother, a former chanteuse, offers unexpected perspectives on the mores of the day. Carrie’s greedy ex-stepchildren are a chorus of cackling crows. And Lisa’s mother just can’t help herself as she henpecks her to distraction. Somehow their conversations always return to the enigma of Kathy. Who was she? What did her short life mean?
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