Home > Reunion Beach

Reunion Beach
Author: Elin Hilderbrand

Carrie Feron


Dear Readers—

In the summer of 2018, a year prior to her death, Dorothea Benton Frank attended her fifty-year high school reunion in Charleston, South Carolina. The event brought back a lot of her memories of high school—rivalries and cliques, as well as long friendships—and Dottie (as I called her) decided her next book, scheduled for 2020, would center on a similar event. Dottie called the book Reunion Beach. The twist was that each of the various characters would resemble a South Carolina bird—most would be raptors, or birds of prey. She was smitten with the idea and could not wait to get started, although at the time she was still working on Queen Bee.

Dottie was simultaneously the most professional and most seat-of-the-pants author I ever edited. Though she always knew what she would write, and exactly which bookstores she would visit to meet her fans a year in advance, she never actually finished the manuscripts until late winter/early spring of the year of publication. I spent many February and March weeks in South Carolina, editing pages as she wrote them, and somehow the books came out in May. The fifteen years of editing her books was filled with fun: we would hole up in her house on Sullivan’s Island, eat a lot of great South Carolina food at local restaurants, walk the beach, and celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day on the main street. Often we would have our hair done for dinner and get manicures and pedicures. Dottie was always elegant. Plus there was usually an adventure at hand when Dottie was around. Did the golf cart once die on the only deserted street on the island? Yes. Did a nanny wreck her employer’s minivan by plowing into and totaling Dottie’s parked car while we were working on edits in the house? Yes. Did our boat once get stuck in the pluff mud? Of course. Did we once surprise a book club that was reading her book? Yes, indeed. Plus Dottie ended up helping make the appetizers. Did we make major changes to the manuscripts at the very last minute—we did. The year she wrote All Summer Long (spoiler alert), the husband originally died at the end of the novel, but I convinced her he was too fine a character to suffer that fate and the ending became a dream sequence. So I guess one year I even saved a Lowcountry life. Every book made its publication date. But most of all we had a lot of fun, and I fell in love with South Carolina.

Editors are usually the cheerleaders and first fans of a novel. But just as favorite books become “friends,” authors with whom editors work become friends as well. In the spring of 2019 Dottie went on book tour as always for Queen Bee, but was overwhelmed with exhaustion. I believe her favorite thing about writing her books was her May “perspiration tour” of the South and meeting fans, and even though tired she soldiered on. On July 4 she called me with her dire diagnosis, and on September 2, 2019, my friend was gone. Dottie’s husband, Peter, was generous enough to let me look through her office computer and memory stick as well as the papers on her desk, but there was no evidence that Reunion Beach was anything but a fabulous idea. There were no notes on the story line.

Luckily her creative writer friends were inspired by the title Reunion Beach and have joined together with stories, essays, poems, and memories in tribute to Dorothea Benton Frank’s love of the Lowcountry and for the books she never had the opportunity to write.

In closing, I will tell you that Dottie loved to give advice, so I thought I should include two of her greatest hits here:

If you are choosing between two pairs of shoes, pick the red ones.

Remember to sparkle.

 

Sparkle on, fans of Dorothea Benton Frank. Please enjoy Reunion Beach.

Carrie Feron,

Editor

 

 

Peter’s Speech at the Celebration of Life for Dottie Frank


Thank you for coming to celebrate the fantastic life of Dottie Frank. She touched millions of people’s lives through her bestselling novels. Dottie was larger than life and a force of nature. As we all know, whatever she put her mind to, she made a great success.

From building a women’s sportswear company, sitting on educational and art boards, raising money for many causes—some of which many of you were involved in—working on the New Jersey State Council of the Arts, writing twenty New York Times bestselling novels to receiving three honorary doctorate degrees.

Dottie had amazing energy, wisdom, and an irreverent wit. She was incredibly generous and brought joy and laughter to everyone she met. Dottie made a difference. The world is a better place for her having been here.

She was beautiful and glamorous. And, man, she sure could throw a party.

Dottie was a wonderful mother, a great friend, and a phenomenal wife and lover.

She made our family’s lives fun, exciting, and meaningful, she taught me so much about being selfless and the power of happiness.

We had a wonderful, passionate marriage that I am so thankful for. I would take thirty-nine years with Dottie before I would take one hundred years with anyone else. SP—I will miss you so much.

Let’s all toast Dottie!

[To Dottie!]

 

 

Introduction


Victoria Benton Frank by Molly Lawson

 

 

Victoria Benton Frank


Dorothea Benton Frank was Dottie to the world, to her friends, and to her family, but to me she was always Momma. Momma believed in magic. She was the ultimate magician whenever there was none to be found. She wove it through her stories, planted it in her garden, made it in her food, and made the impossible seem possible in any way she could.

We all knew that she was an incredible storyteller, but I would always joke that she was just writing the truth and calling it fiction. My momma had a fantastic life. We all miss her, because, well, it just isn’t as much fun without her, but whenever I get sad, I think about what a riot of a life she lived, and how everything she touched was better because she made it so, and even though she is gone, her lessons, which she so carefully taught me, are carrying me through. Not just the fun ones like the “Three F’s: food, fashion, and family.” Or that pink always makes you look pretty, hair is fifty percent of your looks, or when in doubt buy red over black. I hope one day to plant the seeds of Dot’s garden in my own children. Making them also believe in magic.

Birthdays in our life were national holidays. Hers especially. One of Dot’s rules was “The three-gift minimum.” Something had to smell good, something had to feel good, and something had to sparkle. You were not allowed to give a gift to someone that had a plug attached to it, or something that would benefit yourself. It had to be something the person would never buy for themselves, and bonus points were given if it thrilled them. Momma loved to thrill.

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