Reading out of your comfort zone – Lowcountry Summer by Dorothea Benton Frank

We all have our reading comfort zones. Blogging has done nothing if not broadened my comfort zone, but no matter what, there is still a book somewhere that you go into with a lot of presuppositions. For me, that is still the “genre” of women’s fiction, chick lit or a summer read. These are terms I hate, but there aren’t other words to describe what type of fiction I am talking about.

The goal with reading Lowcountry Summer was two-fold. I wanted a warm, summer read to brighten up the dreary Spring and I wanted to venture out of my comfort zone. I want to find an example of this kind of book that I absolutely love. Unfortunately, Lowcountry Summer wasn’t the book to do that.

The worst is when you attempt to read outside of your comfort zone and the book you read only furthers your stereotypes and stereotypes about a genre. Now, I am not saying that these things are inherently bad or mean that a novel is bad, but they are just things that I find to be particularly frustrating or annoying. What frustrates me more is that I know that there are good novels I am missing out on because they are labelled or marketed as this kind of story.

The biggest issue I have is the melodrama. There is a fine line between drama and melodrama. I don’t think melodrama is a pillar of women’s fiction, or only a problem in women’s fiction. One of the biggest offenders of melodrama is, in my opinion, Wally Lamb. Essentially melodrama differs from drama because, according to, “does not observe the laws of cause and effect and that exaggerates emotion and emphasizes plot or action at the expense of characterization.”

Lowcountry Summer is rife with melodrama. Things just happen to people with no purpose and there is one drama or tragedy after another. The characters themselves were flat and their experiences with the drama they were faced with did nothing to make them dynamic.

Another element that never fails to drive me insane is when dialog is used to reveal facts that could easily be shown in the text. It’s almost a cliché at this point to say, “Show don’t tell!” but I truly felt like shouting that out loud as I was reading Lowcountry Summer.

Fortunately, I don’t think that this negative foray into reading out of my comfort zone has destroyed my enthusiasm. There are plenty of books and genres that I only read because they supposedly existed out of this comfort zone and, not surprisingly, many of those books I now call my favorites.

Interestingly, when I read reviews of this book by people who are much more familiar with the genre I found that many people were disappointed by this book, even if they had loved Frank’s books in the past. I’d definitely be willing to give Frank another try in the future, especially after reading some of these reviews. I think there is a lot of great Southern women’s fiction being written and I want to find it. I’ve read books by Anne Rivers Siddons and loved them. Who else would you suggest to fill this gap?

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me this book to review! You can read about other stops on the tour here

8 thoughts on “Reading out of your comfort zone – Lowcountry Summer by Dorothea Benton Frank

  1. What about Sarah Addison Allen? She’s not really chick lit, or Southern fiction, but her stories are fun and feel-good and still a bit different.

  2. I have no suggestions but I’d love to try whatever you find and enjoy–I’m trying to venture into this territory as well.

  3. I’ve read DBF’s previous books because of where they’re set–a part of the country I love–but I think she’s the one whose characters kept going to get their hair “blown out,” which is such a ludicrous phrase, at least to me, that it was the final straw to make me say “no more of these books!” Still, I might have broken down and read this one when someone gave it to me, except for your warning that even people who like DBF haven’t all liked this one.

  4. Somehow I have been missing your posts lately, sorry about that! I totally know what you mean; you go all out of your way to read outside your comfort zone, and then you are unhappy with the results. Wasted book! And I *so* agree with you about Wally Lamb. Not my favorite. I *hated* She’s Come Undone. I second softdrink; Sarah Addison Allen is definitely fluffy, but I actually enjoy her books and I don’t usually like that sort of thing.

  5. Eek, sorry to hear this one was a disappointment — but I can definitely see why it didn’t float your boat. I’m a huge women’s fiction fan and second the nomination for Sarah Addison Allen — her books always have a decidedly Southern twist, but also incorporate friendship, family and magical elements that don’t detract from the story… just add to it. I just finished The Peach Keeper and loved it, and I highly recommend her first novel, Garden Spells! Hope your next foray goes far better for you.

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