FOLLY BEACH is not your typical romance in which the protagonists spar with each other for half the book and spend the second half jumping in and out of bed. Rather it is a straightforward love story with a story within the story. Cate Cooper and John Risley are smitten from the moment they run into each other. That is not to say there are no complications, but those come from others and are conquered by love.
Reading Frank's books is like cleansing the palate: a great story, genuinely nice people, and a setting you will long to experience for yourself.
The format of the book is also unique in that each chapter alternates with an act of the play that Cate will eventually write. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Cate returns to her childhood home in South Carolina's Lowcountry after the death of her philandering husband, Addison. Not only was he a skirt chaser, he actually lost an entire fortune by making poor decisions and trying to cover them up. Upon his death, Cate's beautiful home, expensive cars and Addison's extensive wine collection were confiscated for back taxes, leaving Cate homeless and virtually penniless.
But tragedy was not new to Cate, as she had learned early in life to cope with losing her parents and having to be raised by her Aunt Daisy. Author Dorothea Benton Frank writes that Cate and her sister Patti did not require therapy to help them deal with the loss: "We were far too pragmatic for that sort of self-indulgence, having been cut from suck-it-up-cloth. We learned that you never got used to losing your parents. You just got used to the pain." And, as Cate began to put the pieces of her life back together, that suck-it-up-cloth served her well once more.
Over the years, Aunt Daisy bought up to a dozen beach houses in the area and made a nice living renting them out to vacationers. Each house had a peculiar name, like Buddha house or Porgy. One had belonged to Dorothy and DuBose Heyward, the authors of Porgy and Bess; now the Porgy house was ready and waiting for Cate when she arrived at Folly Beach. Cate felt an immediate fondness for the previous residents and began to research the lives of that famous couple. Her inquiries led her to write a one-woman play in which Dorothy relives her enchanted life in the Porgy house with her beloved DuBose.
In addition to her ability to transport the reader to her happy place, Ms. Frank has a delicious sense of humor and "Southerness." For example, she tells the story of Oscar Wilde standing on the High Battery with a Charleston gentleman: "Oscar says, My word, would you look at that extraordinary moon! The Charleston gentleman says, Ah, you should have seen it before the war." Love it!
Dorothea Benton Frank has written 11 previous novels set in South Carolina's captivating coastal islands and is probably responsible for the recent surge in tourism there. Ever since I finished THE LAND OF MANGO SUNSETS, I never stopped nagging my husband until he agreed to take me there for a long getaway weekend. Now I want to go back. Reading Frank's books is like cleansing the palate: a great story, genuinely nice people, and a setting you will long to experience for yourself.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on June 27, 2011
Folly Beach: A Lowcountry Tale