Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Frank's Newest Lowcountry Tale A Quick, Fun Read

(Image from Indiebound)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for Lowcountry Summer, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its companion novel, Plantation. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

It's Caroline Wimbley Levine's 46th birthday and all she wants is a nice, calm celebration with her family. Too bad the Wimbleys don't do calm. Even the dead ones can't resist a little drama, as evidenced by the balloon bouquet Caroline receives from her recently-deceased mother. Then there's her brother, Trip, who can barely handle the woman he's married to, let alone the complicated situation with his girlfriend. It doesn't help the situation when Frances Mae, Trip's redneck, gold-digging wife shows up at the party so sloshed she doesn't remember running her SUV into the ditch or injuring her young daughter in the process. Caroline's only consolation on this bummer of a birthday is seeing Frances Mae's escort - the county sheriff who makes her blood boil. In a good way.

After her sister-in-law's latest drunken escapade, Caroline knows she has to do something since, Heaven knows, Trip won't. Fixing family situations is part of her duty as the matriarch of the Wimbley Family and current mistress of Tall Pines Plantation. Her mother, the flamboyant, outspoken, late Miss Lavinia would have known exactly what to do. Caroline's not so confident. But she is determined, which leads to Frances Mae's commitment to a treatment program and Caroline's commitment to the four hellcats Trip calls his daughters. Dealing with the sullen girls, their helpless father, as well as her own complicated love life, and her son's mysterious new girlfriend is enough to make Caroline completely crazy. To top it all off, Caroline's got her gullah cook forecasting disaster and her mother leaving signs all over the place to show her amusement/displeasure/infuriation with the way Caroline's handling it all. Caroline's not sure she can take any more crazy from the people she loves - and loathes - the most. Can she deal with it all without cracking? Especially when the only people she can turn to for advice are a ghost and a voodoo queen.

If you've read a few Southern novels, you won't find anything surprising in Lowcountry Summer, the newest book by Dorothea Benton Frank. Her characters are typical of the genre, almost cliche really, and the plot gets a bit contrived. What Frank excels at, though, is setting. The places she describe radiate more depth, more personality, more charm than any of her story people. Tall Pines Plantation is like that - it's what stayed in my mind after I finished the book. I felt more connected to it than to its residents, although that could be because Lowcountry Summer is actually a sequel and I haven't read the first book (Plantation, 2001). Whatever the reason for the slight disconnect I felt with the characters, I enjoyed the novel enough to read it in one day. It had enough Southern quirkiness to charm me, enough conflict to keep me turning pages, and enough humor to make me smile. The book didn't blow me away, but it was definitely a quick, fun read, one that kept me entertained and reminded me why I love Southern novels (Light-as-a-feather biscuits. Need I say more?).

(Readalikes: Plantation by Dorothea Benton Frank as well as other novels by the author; her books also remind of Anne Rivers Siddons'.)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for language, some sexual content and depictions of underrage drug use

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Lowcountry Summer from the generous folks at Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours, for which this review was written. To see more stops on Lowcountry Summer's virtual book tour, click here.

3 comments:

  1. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this post. You make some very informative points . Keep up the great work!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think I'd like Tall Pines Plantation too. I'm glad you found parts of the book that you enjoyed despite your disconnect with the characters.

    Thanks for being on the tour.

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  3. I just finished this and am writing my review now. I had NO idea this was a "sequel!" Well, color me foolish, as a character in the book might have said. ;) I liked it better than the grade you gave, but I've also never read anything by the author before.

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