By Invitation Only
by Jodi Della Femina & Sheri McInnis
(St. Martinís, $14.99, PG) ISBN 978-0-312-61141-5
***
Jodi Della Femina is the author of Jodiís Shortcuts, an annual guidebook to Long Islandís popular summer retreat, the Hamptons.† She obviously knows the region, from the hole-in-the-wall restaurants that sell delicious seafood to the upper crust of societyís annual summer traditions.† Along with co-author Sheri McInnis, Della Femina has written a perfect beach read in By Invitation Only - if your definition of a beach read is a book that you can easily digest when you keep getting distracted by the wonderful sights and sounds of the beach.†

The novelís short chapters alternate among four points of view.† The first is our primary heroine, Toni Fratelli, who is heading to East Hampton after the New York City restaurant she opened failed financially.† She plans to live with her father, who runs a family-style restaurant, and start a catering business while continuing to recover from a devastating breakup with her Wall Street boyfriend.† Toniís beautiful but flighty best friend since childhood, Layla Sullivan, has just gotten engaged to the scion of one of Southamptonís premier families.† Laylaís prospective mother-in-law, Didi Flagstone, is horrified that her son is planning to marry beneath him, and she is determined to do everything she can to break the couple up Ė or, at the very least, make sure that the wedding is done the Right Way.† Finally, investment banker Chris Ohm is spending the summer without his Blackberry and Wall Street Journal as he vows to take a long break from the 24/7 nature of his demanding job.†

Despite the beautiful setting, itís a stressful summer for Toni.† A rival caterer tries to sabotage her fledgling business.† Layla, eager to avoid offending Didi, slowly pulls away from Toni as the simple beach wedding she had envisioned is transformed into a high society event held at Didiís family estate, complete with rich, shallow bridesmaids that Layla doesnít even know.†Toniís blossoming romance with Chris Ohm is exciting but also troubling.† By the time Toni meets Chris, he has fulfilled the vacation vow with gusto, and Toni thinks he is an unemployed surfer dude.† But she suspects there is more to him than meets the eye, and sheís reluctant to get too involved, especially with the recent heartache still haunting her.†

By Invitation Only isnít great literature, but itís a quick, fun read.† Della Femina gets top billing and prominent placement on the bookís back cover, and I suspect she provided the basic plot and details about the Hamptons, but I would guess that poor overlooked Sheri McInnis, author of one previous chick lit novel, is probably responsible for pulling off the bookís well-balanced mixture of pathos and comedy.† Although the book promises ďthe inside world of love, society and scandal,Ē there is nothing shocking or titillating in the plot; itís no Jersey Shore.† You can easily read a quick chapter or two under your beach umbrella, dive into the waves for a break from the heat, and come back for a few more chapters before you take another break to refill your drink.† If youíre not lucky enough to be reading the book at the beach, Iíd suggest that you go to your nearest pool and use your imagination.

--Susan Scribner


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