Return to Sullivans Island by Dorothea Benton Frank
Published by Avon ISBN 978-0-06-198833-2
Trade paperback, $13.99, 416 pages
I don't normally like to read the sequel to a novel unless I have read the first book, because sometimes feel that I've missed too much of the back story to truly enjoy the second book. When I saw that TLC Book Tours was hosting a Dorothea Benton Frank Hit the Beach tour, I enthusiastically joined in, even though I have yet to read one of her books.
Last year my husband and I visited Charleston, South Carolina, Frank's home and the setting for her Sullivan Island books. We loved our time there and I vowed to read some good fiction set there in time for our return visit.
Return to Sullivans Island returns to the story begun in Sullivans Island. Beth Hayes is now a college graduate and reluctantly returning to the family home on Sullivans Island to be the caretaker while her mother Susan lives her dream of spending a year in Paris teaching.
We meet (or catch-up) with the members of the Hayes and Hamilton family and coming from a large extended family myself, I so enjoyed this. Susan has several siblings- sister Maggie, the true matriarch (and stylist/decorator) of the family, brothers Henry (the financial guardian) and Timmy, and youngest twin sisters Sophie and Allison, who became famous fitness gurus. They all bring their families back to Sullivans Island for a bon voyage party for Susan.
After the party, Beth realizes she had to find a job. She signs on to hostess at a popular restaurant, and as someone who ran two restaurants with my husband years ago, I related to the sections of the story set there. The organized chaos, the adrenaline rush of feeding all those people, it brought a smile of recognition to my face. (Not to mention I got some great names of restaurants and dishes I want to try on our next visit.)
Beth also got a job at the local newspaper as a features writer. In her pursuit of her first story, she meets the handsome and charismatic Max Mitchell, a real estate developer who wants to built a large retail property on the island. She falls hard for Max, and can't believe that he is interested in her.
Although I was shocked at how fast Beth fell for Max, I remembered that Beth is just 23 years old, and reflected on how things were at that stage of life. Frank accurately captures those feelings of falling head-over-heels, and losing all perspective.
The family home is not only on the beach, it is also haunted. The ghost of Livvie, the woman who cared for the young Hamilton children, frequently comments and warns the family of things she feels they should know. And Livvie doesn't seem to like Max too well. What does she know that Beth doesn't?
There were some great lines in the novel, including a description of the studious Beth as "the first one chosen as a lab partner and the last one invited on the conga line." I also liked a line from Beth at the end of the book who said that "Your family shapes you when you're really young and then holds you together when trouble comes along." If you are lucky, you feel the same way.
Beth makes a bad decision on whom she trusts, but redeems herself when a family member is in trouble and she comes to her aid. Luckily she has good friends in Cecily (Livvie's granddaughter) and Woody, whom she turns to for help and advice.
I loved the setting of Return to Sullivans Island, and at times felt like I could hear the pounding surf and feel the warmth of the sand under my feet as I was reading. You don't have to have read Sullivans Island to feel like you know what's going on, but I am definitely going to read it because I adore this family so much.
rating 4 of 5
Dorothea Benton Frank has a new novel publishing June 11th, The Last Original Wife. For a preview of the first chapter, click here.
For more info on the Dorothea Benton Frank's TLC Book Tour, and to read more reviews of her books, click here.