Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062390820
Hardcover, $27.99, 390 pages
Nothing says summer like a new Dorothea Benton Frank book, but this season's By Invitation Only is especially appropriate this year. The protagonist has the same first name as me (Diane), and her son is getting married (so is mine) to a young woman he met at work, a fellow accountant. (My son met his bride-to-be at their accounting jobs too.)
So you can see why I would be excited to read By Invitation Only. Throw in the fact that Diane and her brother and mother run a peach orchard in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, where they make and sell pies at their roadside stand, well, I am hooked. (I love books about food and family-run businesses!)
Diane is a somewhat concerned about meeting her son Fred's fiancee Shelby and her family. Susan Kennedy Cambria and her hard-charging hedgefund manager husband Alejandro live in a gorgeous Chicago penthouse and are conspicuous consumers, the one-percenters we frequently hear about.
When both families decide to host an engagment party for the happy couple, it is a major culture-clash. Diane and her brother Floyd throw a Southern BBQ, complete with a pig roast, to welcome the new in-laws. At first Susan is shocked, but when Floyd, who fancies himself a ladies' man, turns on the charm and offers Susan a taste of honey-flavored moonshine, it is Diane who becomes concerned. (As does Floyd's current girlfriend).
The favor is returned when Diane, Floyd, their mother and Diane's best friend head up to Chicago for the wedding, which is Susan's chance to go really over-the-top, over the objections of even her daughter. (Think Harry and Meghan's wedding.) A major snowstorm throws a monkey-wrench into Susan's plans, and adjustments must be made.
I absolutely adored By Invitation Only. The juxtaposition of the uber-wealthy, luxury brand-name droppers (shout-out to Tiffany's, the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Beach, Karl Langerfeld, and Gulfstream G550 private jets) and the hardworking farming family at the mercy of the elements, made for such a fascinating, fun story.
Reading about the delicious food at the BBQ (shrimp and grits, deviled eggs, corn muffins, biscuits, bluefish spread on toast points) as well as the preparations for the family Thanksgiving dinner, had my stomach growling.
As with every wedding, things go wrong, and there are a couple of twists in the plot that have characters re-evaluating their lives. Benton Frank writes her characters so well that you feel like you could sit down next to them and have a juicy conversation over a glass of sweet tea. Her trademark humor shines here as well.
By Invitation Only might be my favorite Dorothea Benton Frank book, and I just hope my son's upcoming nuptials go a little smoother than Fred and Shelby's. I highly recommend it for your summer beach read, and if you know any upcoming MOBs (Mother-of-the-Brides) or MOGs (Mother-of-the-Grooms), this would make a lovely gift. (And the cover is gorgeous too.)
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Dorothea Benton Frank's tour. The rest of her stops are here: