“By Invitation Only,” the latest title by best-selling author and part-time Lowcountry resident Dorothea Benton Frank, demonstrates once again why she is one of the most beloved writers of women’s fiction.
Set in the Deep South, “By Invitation Only” is Frank’s 19th novel. Each one is full of her humor and keen observances of Southernisms, especially the quirky ones that make the South unique.
The story is set alternatively in Mt. Pleasant (near Charleston) and Chicago and covers the weeks leading up to a big society wedding. The bride is the daughter of a wealthy Chicago power couple and the groom is the son of working-class produce farmers in the South.
The families of the bride and groom meet for the first time and begin to make plans for the traditional pre-wedding parties as well as the wedding itself, each having far different expectations. As one might imagine, this leads to a fair amount of tension and drama.
It turns out the young couple have more common sense and perspective than their parents. The moms of the bride and groom, although seemingly complete opposites with little in common, eventually become friends. They come to respect and even admire the strengths of the other, realizing they are not so different after all beneath the surface.
A financial scandal for one family turns their world upside down, and the fallout brings unexpected fresh perspectives and a newfound freedom for one of the main characters.
With feisty, self-reliant female characters and some insightful honesty, the tough times are weathered, and long-held beliefs give way to new realizations about true self and what is important and what is not.
Frank’s style of storytelling is briskly paced and readers might find themselves reading it very quickly. But it’s best to slow down, savor the satisfying twists and turns and enjoy her always delightful characters. If you like this book, there are 18 more to look forward to.
Frank (known to her friends as Dot) splits her time between Sullivan’s Island and New Jersey. She is an avid fly fisherwoman and loves to cook and travel.
All of Frank’s novels can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and booksellers everywhere. “By Invitation Only” is published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Glenda Harris of Bluffton is a freelance writer and editor, nature lover and aspiring novelist.