• Paperback: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 23, 2019)
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.
DBF is one of those authors I’ve been meaning to read for years, I’m not sure what took me so long because this one was really fun! Southern Fiction is fast becoming one of my favorite sub genres and I can see why the author is a fan favorite, this was full of southern charm.
This flips back and forth between Diane and Susan, with a few chapters from Susan’s daughter, Shelby as well. When Shelby and Diane’s son Fred get engaged two very different worlds collide. Diane is a country girl through and through and Susan is the total opposite. She’s extremely wealthy and snobby and when the two families meet for the first time, let’s just say it was funny to watch but a nightmare for them both I’m sure. Fred’s family was lovable from the beginning and Shelby’s was again, exactly the opposite but by the end I sort of liked her. There are enough amazing, likable characters with Fred’s extended family and friends that it was actually pretty fun to dislike her.
One small, unique touch from the author was that every chapter was headed with a little snippet of dialogue between the characters that sets the tone for what’s next and I found it to be a really charming little touch. I’m not sure if this is the authors usual style, but either way it was appreciated. I can totally recommend this one to add to your summer reading list, just beware, you may find yourself craving some sweet peach tea and biscuits a few times!
By Invitation Only in three words: Endearing, Funny and Spirited.
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.
About Dorothea Benton Frank
New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She resides in the New York area with her husband.