A widow returns to her childhood haven, Folly Beach, S.C., where she is captivated by new love and a literary mystery.
In this latest of Frank’s Lowcountry series set on South Carolina’s picturesque barrier islands, the heroine, Cate, is another victim of the economic crash of 2008. When she discovers her equity-trader husband, Addison, hanging over her piano in their New Jersey mansion, she only has an inkling of the financial shenanigans that led to his suicide. Within 24 hours, mistresses, paternity claims and collection liens are popping up like dandelions, and Cate watches in horror as all her worldly goods are repossessed. Flat broke (even her engagement bling is a zircon!), she has no alternative but to flee to the South Carolina home of her Aunt Daisy, who raised Cate and sister Patti after they were orphaned as children. Almost immediately, in a clichéd fender-bender “meet cute,” she finds Prince Charming: professor John Risley, who specializes in the Charleston Renaissance of the 1920s. Soon Cate is installed in the Porgy House (part of Aunt Daisy’s beach-rental empire), so named because Charleston Renaissance poet DuBose Heyward and his wife Dorothy lived there while George Gershwin was adapting the Heywards’ play Porgy into Porgy and Bess. Around mid-novel, we realize that the sections that have been alternating with Cate’s chapters, narrated by Dorothy, are from a one-woman play that John encouraged Cate to write—or, more accurately, a verbiage-choked rough draft of a play. Cate copes with John’s impossible goodness, Aunt Daisy’s illness, the pregnancy of her son’s narcissistic wife and her actress daughter’s rants, but her chief preoccupation is proving that Dorothy, not DuBose, was the real librettist and lyricist of Porgy and Bess. The narrative is already bogged down by Dorothy’s monologues, but the scenes of Cate’s post-opulent life are equally interminable—Frank is seemingly loath to leave anything out, however mundane.
This novel about dramatists, although lightened by some witty down-home repartee, displays little aptitude for scene-craft.