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Susan Mallery, #1 NY Times bestselling authorSusan Mallery, #1 NY Times bestselling author

Dear Reader,

Often, readers ask me to recommend books, and I'm always hesitant because many of my friends are writers, and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by forgetting to mention them. But every once in a while, I throw caution to the wind to tell you about a very special book—such as By Invitation Only by the fabulous Dorothea Benton Frank. Lots of juicy feels!

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 pe 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.


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Susan: BY INVITATION ONLY, your 19th novel to date, is a sassy, charming novel with a lot of heart. What was the inspiration for it?

Dottie: The inspiration for BY INVITATION ONLY comes as much from my stage in life as anything else.  In the past five years I have been the MOB and the MOG and I’ve attended so many weddings it boggles the mind.  One thing I learned is that from the time the diamond goes on the finger until the honeymoon is taken, everyone on both sides of the families loses their minds – some totally and others to a lesser degree.  The lesser degree comes when the bride and groom grew up together, their parents are great friends, they attend the same church, belong to the same clubs etc.  But when opposites attract?  The potential for a great rollicking story of histrionics and pyrotechnics is born.  The ultimate opposites are the HAVES and the HAVE NOTS.  And what if they’re destined to change places?  I had a ball writing this novel.

Susan: If this newest novel was ever adapted into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

Dottie: If this was to become a film? 

a. Diane English Stiftel would be Diane Lane 

b. Floyd Stiftel would be Kevin Costner 

c. Susan Kennedy Cambria would be Michele Pfeiffer

d. Alejandro Cambria would be George Clooney

e. Frederick Stiftel would be Zac Efron

f. Shelby Cambria would be Emma Watson 

Susan: Inspired by all of the fun parties the characters in BY INVITATION ONLY attend, if you could invite three people (living or dead) to a party you’re hosting, who would it be and why?

Dottie: Three party guests of my dreams? Hmm. Bob Dylan because he’s brilliant and we could rehash the seventies, Thomas Keller because we’d eat well, and Stephen Spielberg because I’d love to hear him expound on his world view.

Susan: The Lowcountry of South Carolina is such a hotspot right now to travel to! You’re known for setting your novels there – could you share a few of the not-to-be-missed places when visiting?

Dottie: If you visit the Lowcountry of South Carolina you must do the following:

a. Take a walk on the beach of Sullivan’s Island at sunset

b. Have a cocktail at The Obstinate Daughter on that same island

c. Have the crudo with dinner at Coda del Pesce on the Isle of Palms

d. Visit Crogan’s Jewel Box on King Street in Charleston and buy a Gold Bug of some sort

e. Visit the Charleston Library Society to view their rare manuscripts

f. Walk the Battery on Murray Boulevard and consider Fort Sumter and what it means

g. See the pottery of Dave the Slave at the Charleston Museum

h. Attend an oyster roast

i. Eat boiled peanuts

j. Have grits with your eggs for breakfast

k. Drink sweet tea

l. Cruise the madness of the Market and learn about sweet grass baskets

m. Visit a plantation – Boone Hall, Drayton Hall, Middleton Place or Magnolia Gardens

n. Take a nature cruise out to Bull Island

o. Don’t buy the T-shirt – take home a bottle of Mrs. Sassards Artichoke Relish



Don't forget to preorder my next book, When We Found Home. And then register your preorder HERE for a chance to win 1 of 5 Ancestry DNA kits. You never know what fascinating things you might discover about yourself and where you came from.

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Happy reading!

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