Olivia Ritchie has a nice life. She’s madly in love with her husband, a professor who has just retired, and she has a rewarding career as an interior designer for the super-rich, some of whom have become her friends. Dorothea Benton Frank’s latest novel, All Summer Long, takes readers on a tour of the life of the one percent while also investigating what makes a happy marriage.
Olivia’s life is not actually ideal. She long ago promised her husband that when he retired, they would leave New York City for Charleston, South Carolina. It’s not just that Olivia is afraid she can’t adjust to the slower pace of life in the South; she also has a secret she’s been keeping from Nick: their finances, which she manages, are not in great shape. How is she going to recruit elite clients from long distance? Does she even want to?
In the midst of these contemplations, Olivia keeps getting pulled into the lives of her billionaire clients, Bob and Maritza Vasile. Maritza is Bob’s former employee—“All she did was screw her way into Bob’s wallet,” according to one assessment Olivia overhears. Bob himself owns a yacht, a jet, a personal submarine, and he can afford to rent an entire island when he needs a vacation. The Vasiles often invite the Ritchies along on their travels, but for Olivia and Nick this luxury comes at the price of time spent with clueless people who don’t appreciate what they have and can never resist an opportunity to be snide. Then there’s Gladdie, Bob and Maritza’s totally undisciplined daughter, and the child’s nanny, Ellen, who seems to be angling for a new role in the family: becoming the next Mrs. Vasile. And that’s all before Colette, a former Mrs. Vasile, enters the picture with a family wedding to plan.
When everyone else seems to be at the beach and the best you can hope for is an inflatable pool in the back yard, a private island might start to look pretty good, but All Summer Long is a good reminder that all that glitters is not gold.
Faye Jones, dean of learning resources at Nashville State Community College, writes the Jolly Librarian blog for the college’s Mayfield Library. She earned her doctorate in nineteenth-century literature at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.