Dorothea Benton Frank makes her first appearance on the blog today with her new woman’s fiction title
By Invitation Only
Not having read this author before, I was intrigued by the “culture shock’ promised in this book: coming from the urban north to the quiet farm life on a Lowcountry farm. Fred is a South Carolina native, living and working in the family farm where his family has been for years. Shelby is from Chicago, daughter of well-to-do parents and far removed from the ‘get dirty and work the land” as is possible. Meeting in college, Shelby and Fred were inseparable and decided to marry – and then the conflicts started.
Fred’s mother Diane lives in her childhood home on the farm, as far removed from the pampered social-centric life as Shelby’s mother Susan lives as possible. Wanting to be involved and celebrate her son’s upcoming wedding, Diane is planning a friends and family heavy engagement party, complete with a pig roast and lots of laughter: relaxed and low-key, she’s opened the invitation to Shelby’s mother and step-father. Susan and Alejandro arrive via private jet to the country, and it’s fair to say that Susan and Diane have little in common beyond their children. Susan carried herself with a chip of removed superiority at the party, unimpressed and barely warming up to anyone by Fred’s uncle Floyd. Not long after, a larger more opulent party in Chicago, also to celebrate the engagement, is in the works – with Susan arranging the event. Niether Fred nor Shelby want something so over the top and formal, and when Susan declined, the worlds collided again – Fred’s family utterly unprepared for the ‘celebrity level’ party and plans Susan has put forward.
Constantly trying to rein in Susan’s plans for the wedding has both Fred and Shelby on edge – they want intimate and smaller – a celebration of their love, not an extravaganza. And then, Fred’s grandfather dies just before Thanksgiving, and the couple decided to move their wedding forward five months which also serves to cut out some of the more over the top elements her mother was planning. With a showdown over the wedding, the rehearsal dinner and the ongoing struggles after the death of Fred’s grandfather – the couple can’t wait to find some away time to regroup and reconnect after the wedding.
Sure enough, the challenges don’t end with the wedding and former ‘in laws’ both have struggles to wade through, and sometimes that means the people you’d least expect to be in your corner from first impressions are the family that you come rely on as you heal and find a way to move forward. A lovely story of family and acceptance that is ripe with southern hospitality, honest emotion and plenty of obstacles that are overcome.
Title: By Invitation Only
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Genre: Contemporary Woman's Fiction, Southern
Published on: 15 May, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 24 minutes
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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.
Soon By Invitation Only zooms to Chicago, where the unraveling accelerates. Nearly a thousand miles away from her comfortable, familiar world, Diane is the antithesis of the bright lights and super-sophisticated guests attending her son Fred’s second engagement party. Why a second party? Maybe it had been assumed that the first one wouldn’t be up to snuff? Fred is marrying Shelby Cambria, also an only child. The Cambrias’ dearest wish is for their daughter to be happy. If Shelby wants to marry Frederick, aka Fred, they will not stand in her way—although Susan does hope her friends won’t think her daughter is marrying more than a few degrees beneath her socially. At the same time, Diane worries that her son will be lost to her forever.
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 copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.