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“If I could only read one writer from now until the end of my life, it would be Dorothea Benton Frank.” --Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of The Identicals 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This country mouse/city mouse tale is touching and funny. Thanks to an engagement, two wildly different families are thrown together to navigate their often-clashing approaches to love, celebration, crisis, and loyalty. Narrated alternately by the groom’s mother, Diane (a farmstand manager), and the bride’s mother, Susan (a wealthy, stylish socialite), Dorothea Benton Frank’s novel features lively characters who both inhabit and defy stereotypes. By Invitation Only is full of sumptuous descriptions of gatherings in country kitchens and private clubs…and dialogue so canny it might as well be transcribed from real life.
South Carolina's Low Country is the heart of this tender paean to young love and midlife makeovers, but Benton Frank (Same Beach, Next Year) also blends the allure of big-city swagger into her smart and funny account of modern wedding madness. As middle-aged divorc e Diane prepares for the upcoming wedding of her only child, Fred, to city slicker Shelby, she thinks of all the reasons why the blend of a "tribe of hillbillies" and Chicago socialites might prove disastrous. These include Diane's lady-killer brother, Floyd, and her shoot-from-the-hip mom, Virnell. Susan, Shelby's mother, narrates in alternating chapters and unveils her doubts about the match after her plans for a lavish, society-page worthy wedding start to fall apart while her husband's financial issues increasingly come to the fore. It'll be Shelby and Fred who ultimately quell the rancor with their own plans to do "a better job of being a family," laying the groundwork for a hilarious rehearsal dinner hoedown amid an epic Chicago snowstorm and a sweetly intimate wedding day. New beginnings bubble throughout, with Diane taking a second look at love and Susan being forced into much-needed soul-searching and unexpected new relationships. Benton Frank readers will be richly rewarded by this endearing story of love and family.