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Monday, May 21, 2018

By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank

By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank
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:

Instagram Feature Stops

Tuesday, May 15th: Instagram: @theloudlibrarylady
Wednesday, May 16th: Instagram: @read.write.coffee
Thursday, May 17th: Instagram: @katereadsbooks_
Friday, May 18th: Instagram: @laceybooklovers
Saturday, May 19th: Instagram: @diaryofaclosetreader

Review Stops

Tuesday, May 15th: Instagram: @writersdream
Wednesday, May 16th: Instagram: @jessicamap
Thursday, May 17th: From the TBR Pile
Friday, May 18th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, May 21st: bookchickdi
Tuesday, May 22nd: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, May 21st: Girl Who Reads
Thursday, May 24th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks
Friday, May 25th: Stranded in Chaos
Monday, May 28th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, May 29th: Jathan & Heather
Wednesday, May 30th: Literary Quicksand

Monday, May 14, 2018

New in Paperback- Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank

Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062390790
Trade paperback, $15.99, 374 pages

It's almost a shame that Dorothea Benton Frank's books always have such gorgeous covers because every year when I buy the newest one, I inevitably mar up the pretty covers with sunscreen. I guess she shares some of the blame, after all, her books are a summer right of passage. Summer has not officially arrived until I have the latest Dorothea Benton Frank book in my beach bag.

This summer's book is Same Beach, Next Year set in her beloved Lowcountry of South Carolina. Each year Adam and Eliza and their young twin boys Luke and Max spend a few weeks at a vacation condo not far from home. Adam is a hardworking successful construction business owner and Eliza is a fabulous cook, who yearns to write a cookbook.

One year, a new couple takes the condo next door and it turns out the woman is Eve, Adam's first love. Eve is married to Carl, a hardworking, successful pediatrician and they have a young daughter, Daphne, about the twins' age, and they are joined by with Eve's mother Cookie.

The two couples get along famously, and although Eliza has her antenna up a bit about Adam and Eve, the fact that Carl is extremely handsome and shamelessly flirts with her distracts her somewhat.

The four become fast friends, and along with Ted, Adam's father, and Ted's girlfriend Clarabeth, it's one big happy family as they meet every year for two weeks and swim together, golf together and eat together.

Cookie likes to stir trouble, and she is hyper-critical of her daughter, which literally drives Eve to drink. Time flies by and Eve turns to Adam when she fears that Carl has been cheating on her. That sets in motion an incident that threatens two marriages and their friendship.

One of the things I love best about Frank's book is that she makes her characters relatable. Eliza has two sons (so do I), her dog Rufus is her best friend (mine was Malcolm, my late beloved basset hound) and Eliza loves to cook, as do I (well, most of the time).

This book is written from the perspectives of both Eliza and Adam, and I found it intriguing how Frank got into Adam's mindset. I have to say, though, I found his behavior and rationalizations puzzling, although I think each character makes some head-shaking choices here.

Since Eliza is a cook, we get some wonderfully descriptive foodie scenes, from Eliza's trip to the Piggly Wiggly grocery store to Eliza's family Christmas breakfast (I could almost smell the cinnamon on the page) to the feast that Eliza has with her Greek family in Corfu.

Same Beach, Next Year is another Dorothea Benton Frank winner, it's got everything you want in a summer beach read- great characters, sassy dialogue, interesting family and friend dynamics and a road trip to Greece. Maybe I should try covering my book in plastic so the sunscreen doesn't ruin the beautiful cover.

You may recognize the book's title- an homage to the Alan Alda-Ellen Burstyn movie, Same Time, Next Year, which if you haven't seen, you should. The IMDB link is here. (It was a play first.)