Friday, May 3, 2019

Book Review - By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank

Book Synopsis
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.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Review
By Invitation Only is the story of two very different families coming together for the wedding of their children.  Diane English Stiftel is a divorced single mother who lives on the peach farm in South Carolina where she grew up, along with her aging parents and her brother.  Diane is the mother of the groom, Fred.  Susan and Alejandro Cambria are wealthy socialites from Chicago.  They are the parents of the bride, Shelby.  Although most of the novel is told from Diane's perspective, there are chapters from Susan's perspective as well.  It is heartwarming and sometimes humorous seeing the adventures of this new extended family over the space of a couple of years (August 2016 to Spring 2018).

I wanted to read this book because I love southern fiction and always enjoy Dorothea Benton Frank's storytelling.  This novel was no exception!   It is told with great warmth and humor.  By Invitation Only was a quick read for me because I read in any spare time I had over a weekend -- just because I did not want to put the book down.

Shelby and Fred, the bride and groom, were sweet characters but the novel really focuses more on their families. 

I loved the character of Diane.  I related to her in many ways, and she is a character I would choose as a friend.  She is kind and empathetic and really cares about others;  she's also very down to earth.  I enjoyed reading the passages of the book about the peach farm and the farm stand business that the family runs, where they sell peach jam, baked goods, and fresh produce.

Susan is initially not an empathetic character;  she presents as materialistic and shallow.  However, as the characters' lives change over the course of time, she also evolves as a person.  I especially enjoyed her changing relationship - and friendship - with Diane.

There are some great secondary characters in this novel as well, like Diane's delightfully outspoken mother, Virnell, her brother Floyd, who always livens up a party, and her long time suitor, Alden.

There are many twists and turns in this novel, as fortunes change and unexpected romances develop, and things change over time - as they do in real life.   I found the lively nature of the storytelling, along with these twists and turns, particularly engaging.

I recommend By Invitation Only as a weekend or vacation read.   You will get to spend some time in both small town South Carolina and with the glamorous set in Chicago, and meet some characters that you will not soon forget! 

Author Bio
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.

Find her on the web at, or like her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.
I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.


Sara Strand said...

I really enjoy Dorothea Benton Frank and her books are what usher in summer for me. I hope you get to read her latest, Queen Bee, it's pretty great as well. Thanks for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours

trish said...

I know I would love these books! I love unexpected romance and things happening the way life does -- in a non-linear way.