Lowcountry Beach Reads
The magic of the Lowcountry
I’ve heard the term “beach read” for several years now, and it usually starts making the rounds in April/May of each year. Authors are talking about their latest book set at the beach, and bloggers and Instagrammers promote books about the beach to read at the beach. Some authors such as Elin Hilderbrand, Mark Kay Andrews, Jennifer Weiner, Dorthea Benton Frank, and Mary Alice Monroe write books set at the beach.
But, who defines what a beach read is? Is it a book set at the ocean, a book that you take to the beach to read, a book read during the summertime only, a fun book to read, or is a beach read whatever each reader wants a beach read to be? I’m not going to try to define a beach read for you, but for me, a beach read is a fun, usually quick read, with characters I can relate to, and hopefully, set at the beach, one of my favorite places to be.
I took an RV trip with relatives to Charleston a few years back, and we enjoyed our time there. We didn’t know much about that area, so we did the typical touristy things. In the last couple of years, I’ve discovered the “Lowcountry” and authors that write books set in that area. I wish I had known about these authors and books when I went to Charleston as I would have gone to Sullivan’s Island, the Isle of Palms, and Dewees Island.
I’d like to highlight an author that writes books set in the Lowcountry and to give you more to read as this author has a couple of different book “series.” I enjoy "series” books and getting to know the characters; after a few books, they begin to feel like family.
Mary Alice Monroe writes the Beach House series (7 books), and I have read all of the books in the series except for the most recent book, The Summer of Lost and Found. The Beach House begins the series with the family matriarch, Lovie, asking her daughter Cara to come home. As they face their past and the mistakes they each have made, they learn things about each other, and life will never be the same again. Subsequent books feature other family members and long-time friends, and past characters return, some more prominent than others. New characters are introduced midway through the series to keep the series going forever if Monroe wants to continue. While there is romance in some of the books, it is not the book's focus, so don’t let that deter you if you don’t like romance books. What I enjoy so much about the books is Monroe’s ability to tell a story about deeply flawed characters, and she makes you care for them as you would your friends or family. Her focus on wildlife species such as the loggerhead turtles is prominent in most of these books and makes me want to know more about something I never knew I wanted to know anything about. Each book is written as a stand-alone; however, if you read them in book number order, you can better understand each character and what that character has meant to the past storyline.
Monroe’s most recent book, The Islanders, a middle-grade book, is about three kids on Dewees Island for the summer as they learn how to be kids without technology. The kids learn about sea turtles, families, and what friendship means. There is a connection to a Beach House series book character, and I believe that this is the first book in a new middle-grade series. I read this book and adored it and can’t wait until the next one.
Monroe’s other series is The Lowcountry Summer Series (5 books) about three granddaughters, who, for different reasons, come home to Mamaw for the summer to heal and find direction in their lives. Carson has been drifting for years and finds purpose in her life through her relationship with a dolphin. Dora’s world is turned upside down with a divorce and a medical diagnosis, and she comes to visit to heal. Harper is estranged from her mother and feels abandoned and directionless. Each book focuses on a different sister and their path to healing, and the last two books bring a wedding and a Christmas that you will never forget. I have read the first book in the series, and I’m in the middle of the second book now, and I enjoy it as much as I did the first one.
I have just started the first book in the next Lowcountry series on my list, Dorthea Benton Frank’s series Lowcountry Tales. This series is 13 books deep, plenty to keep you busy for a while. A recent release, Reunion Beach, is a companion book of stories inspired by Dottie (as her friends called her) written by the author's friends after Frank’s death in 2019 from Leukemia. The literary world was shocked when she passed as only a few knew of her illness. I’m thankful that she has 20+ books to delight readers as I intend to make my way through all of them.
If your TBR is like mine, it is overflowing, but what’s one more book added to the pile. If you like reading about family struggles, sisters, friendship, hopes, and dreams, any of these books will satisfy those reading cravings. I enjoy learning about the Lowcountry and its people with all their problems; they’ve become like family to me. My next trip to Charleston will be filled with fun side trips to take in all the places from these books that I didn’t know about with my first trip to the Lowcountry.