Review: By Invitation Only

by Joli
Published: Updated:
By Invitation Only: Book Review on Literary Quicksand

First of all, we should talk about how pretty the cover of this book is! This was one of those that I chose mostly by the cover, because it’s lovely!

Lately, I’ve been jonesing for some well written girly summer reads. This is a little out of character for me, because “girly summer reads” isn’t really my genre of choice. I’m a literary fiction girl, through and through. That’s another reason why this book appealed to me, because it sounded like it really fit that girly genre, and I hoped I’d find the writing up to par.

By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank most definitely fit the girly summer read category. For me, it was a little too fluffy/cheesy, but if fluffy girly reads are your jam, this would be a good choice for you!

The story is about two young people from very different backgrounds (and sides of the country) falling in love and planning a wedding. The girl, Shelby, is the daughter of a very rich power broker in Chicago. The boy, Fred, is from the “lowcountry” of South Carolina, where his family runs a family farm. As the wedding planning begins, the families have to meet each other and work together on planning the wedding of their children.

As you can imagine, clashing and hilarity ensues. The story is told mainly from the viewpoints of the mothers, Diane and Susan. Their differences are very clear from the beginning, which is fun to watch play out.

Especially in the beginning of this book, I found some nuggets of writing that I really enjoyed. This one about family heirlooms, for instance, stood out to me. It’s when South Carolina mom, Diane, is laying out her family’s old worn holiday flatware:

Placing the forks and knives around the table always gave me a moment of pause. This was the the thing about family heirlooms: humble or grand, they made the past alive again. Whether it was a spoon or a locket, a shoehorn or an old Bible, when I held these objects in my hands, I could imagine my great-great-grandparents or someone’s ancestors going about their day. And I loved the thought of them setting the table for Thanksgiving, just as I was now.

There were pieces of text like this throughout the book that I really enjoyed. However, especially as the book went on, it seemed almost like the author was getting rushed to get through to the end of her story and there were less of these well-thought-out passages and more just…fluff and kind of corny dialogue.

As the story went on, I could see what was clearly going to happen, although I didn’t quite predict everything. Overall, this book was entertaining and I did enjoy reading it, but just because this isn’t really my genre, I didn’t like it as much as girly book lovers would. I’m giving this one a solid 3 stars. Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow Books for the copy of this book in exchange for a review!

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About By Invitation Only

• Hardcover: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (May 15, 2018)

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.

Photo by Debbie Zammit

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.

Find her on the web at, or like her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.



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Rachel June 1, 2018 - 8:12 am

I was just in Charleston on vacation last weekend, so that makes this book even more appealing!

Dorothea Benton Frank, author of By Invitation Only, on tour May/June 2018 | TLC Book Tours June 2, 2018 - 8:33 pm

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Heather J @ TLC Book Tours June 2, 2018 - 8:44 pm

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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