"BULLS ISLAND" BY DOROTHEA BENTON FRANK
The Twilight Zone recently featured an episode where a somber bank teller longed for more time to read. His wife wouldn't allow him to read at home; so instead, he stole time from work, devouring books, newspapers and just about anything he could get his hands on. The story doesn't end here, but this scene sets the tone for my argument that reading for the pure joy of it is addictive.
My escape from reality arrives in an attractive hardcover, imprinted with the words "Bulls Island" by Dorothea Benton Frank. This tale provides all the necessary ingredients for a steamy romance ... love, betrayal, lust and intrigue. Find a quiet spot to read, open this book to Chapter One and revel in the hot and humid oasis of Charleston County, where southern roots boast wetlands of swamps, marshes, bugs and imposing alligators.
Picture the majestic Cooper River, a popular landmark in South Carolina, where Betts McGee and J.D. Langley narrate the pages of "Bulls Island," alternating between their lofty version of events. Once childhood sweethearts, both are reminiscing some 20 years later and silently suffering from a tragedy that happened long ago.
Betts, a top investment bank executive in New York, is savvy, smart and fearless or at least she appears to be. Her emotional frailty is evident the minute she sets foot in her hometown of Charleston during hurricane season. Not only is a storm brewing, but the forecast predicts a tumultuous meeting among Betts, her father and her sister, Joanie. She enlists the support of her assistant Sandi and her best friend and confidant, Sela, owner of O'Farrell's, a local restaurant.
J.D. is not only good-looking, he's also rooted in one of the wealthiest families in Charleston. Here, the Langleys are a big deal. They have strong Southern twangs, big money and even bigger ideas. Louisa and and Big Jim are protective of their only child J.D; and they keep him close. He along with his wife, Valerie, live on the opposite side of the property from his parents, a poor relationship made worse by his haughty and domineering mother.
After harrowing anticipation, and surprisingly little fanfare, Betts and J.D. lay eyes on each other after almost 20 years. Fireworks erupt, tensions mount and they find themselves in a familiar predicament of unresolved emotions, but much like the past, several obstacles discourage a likely romantic reunion.
Betts and J.D. collide as equal partners of Triangle Equity and Langley Development. The project pits multi-millionaires against radical environmentalists, despite attempts by both to assure the public that the wetlands of Bulls Island will not be disturbed. Even Bett's frumpy sister, Joanie, is not easily convinced that this plan is void of environmental issues.
The author paints a realistic picture of environmental issues; and it's obvious she knows her way around corporate assessments, construction sites and the best wine collection in town. Her writing implores us, with the help of make-believe characters, to hold to the truth above all else. But Betts not only has difficulty expressing the truth, she also avoids confronting her arsenal of demons, making her distress and guilt understandable.
Family secrets are well kept ... but not for long. Significant changes are ahead for the lively characters of "Bulls Island." Stunning revelations involve two Southern families and Adrian, the most explosive secret of them all.
Well, one thing is for certain, except for the insatiable gators, Bulls Island will never be the same!
READING FOR THE PURE JOY OF IT
Dorothea Benton Frank
Listen to an excerpt from Bulls Island
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"The Week's Most Talked About Book" is a weekly book review and literary criticism column that publishes every Friday. Selected titles are based on popularity, public opinion, research and observation. Questions, comments and suggestions should be sent to book lover and columnist Karla Mass at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is a content producer for McClatchy Interactive.