Were these rules relevant to a young bride today? she wondered. Would Harper and Carson find them daunting? Would Dora have utilized these in her marriage to Cal?

They were not her daughters, but her granddaughters. They affectionately called her Mamaw and their bond was strong, indeed. She had done her best to instruct the girls in proper manners when they’d spent summers with her at Sea Breeze, but she didn’t oversee their upbringing or guide them day to day. She had no worries that Harper knew her etiquette. In England, her family was in Debrett’s. Dora’s mother, Winifred, bless her heart, did her best. Even if Winnie knew the letter of the law and not the spirit. Carson, however, was a wild card. Raised by Marietta’s son, Carson might as well have been raised by wolves. Looking back, Marietta saw that she’d failed Carson by not insisting that the young girl live with her in Charleston rather than with her father in Los Angeles. Yet the girl had a natural grace and a passion for living that no amount of education could teach. Carson knew enough manners to get by. Marietta sighed. How to set a table, at the least. The rest, Marietta knew, Carson could learn.

Mamaw tapped her lips, considering. Certainly for the parties and the wedding ceremonies, protocol played an important role. Especially in the church. Goodness, without protocol they’d all be walking around utterly clueless what to do next. Protocol was reassuring in such times, and Mamaw was confident that she could guide the fledglings in the proper procedures for the ceremonies. With a slight lift of her chin she thought that sometimes being old had advantages.

As for the rest . . . it might be true that some of the rules of etiquette from the past were outdated. Yet didn’t etiquette, like language and customs, evolve and adapt to current times? Treating others with kindness, consideration, and respect was timeless. All should be aware of how their actions affect others in their daily lives.

Marriage was hard work. As in the vows the young brides and grooms were going to say, there was indeed sickness and health, poverty and wealth, till death do us part. Only in the wisdom of experience could one hear those words and understand the depth of their meaning.

Marietta had lived a charmed life in many ways. Yet she’d also endured the sadness of miscarriages and the crushing blow of the death of her only child. Edward had been her support during those trials, but when he died, it was her dear friend Lucille who had seen her through the darkness to the light. Then Lucille, too, had passed, and Marietta was alone again. Her granddaughters were a solace, true, but she’d also discovered a different sort of comfort and companionship in an old friend, Girard.

So, perhaps, marriage wasn’t the only answer for a compatible relationship? she wondered. Partnership and friendship were important ingredients. Still, she believed marriage was an institution set up by society to protect the concept of family. Marriage offered security and stability in a world quickly losing values, customs, and traditions. This she wanted for her granddaughters.

Yet, in the end, her mother had only wanted Marietta to be happy. Happy with her husband, happy in her society, happy in her home. Isn’t that what every mother wished for her daughter? Shouldn’t she wish only that for her Summer Girls?

She sighed and cupped her chin in her palm. So what to say? Lord, she prayed, help me find the words. Then she smiled again and the answer came readily. She would tell each young bride the same words her mother had told her so many years ago. Simple words that had withstood the test of time. Be kind, my darling girl. And be happy!

Chapter One

It’s never too late. Not to begin again. Not for happy ever after.

If the lowcountry was her heart, then the salt water that pumped through all the mysterious and sultry creeks and rivers was her life’s blood.

Carson sat in a window seat of the small jet staring out at her first glimpse of the lowcountry in six months. From the sky she stared out the portal window at the estuarine waters snaking through the wetlands looking every bit like veins and major arteries. Carson was heading back home. Back to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, like so many of the migrating birds and butterflies journeying along the coast. She was so close she could almost smell the pluff mud.

Carson had been traveling for over fifty hours from New Zealand to Los Angeles, then from there to Atlanta, and now, at long last, on the final puddle jumper to Charleston. The past days had been one long blur of plane changes, long lines, endless waiting, and hours cramped in crowded airplanes. She thought she might sleep on the red-eye from Los Angeles, but she’d reached that odd point of being too exhausted to sleep. She couldn’t turn off her brain.

She was drained after four months of film photography in the wild forests of New Zealand followed by extended postproduction work. Her life had been a series of breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings where the powers-that-be debated over the best shots for the film’s press and publicity. The film’s star was a major A-list actor with a high “kill shot” allowance, which meant he could select those photographs he liked and reject those he did not. This prima donna had killed 75 percent of Carson’s best work because he had an issue with his nose. In all that time Carson didn’t have a free moment to surf, kite, or even stick a toe in the Pacific Ocean. Not even during her two-day stopover in Los Angeles. She’d packed up her few belongings from storage, had them shipped to Sullivan’s Island, knocked on a few doors to bid farewell to friends, then called a cab and headed to LAX. Too long a time away from the water put her in a dismal state of mind. She felt fried. She couldn’t wait to get home to the good ol’ Atlantic.

Home.

Carson tried to stretch her impossibly long legs in the cramped space of economy seating, wondering again if she’d really been so clever to exchange her first-class seats and pocket the money. Resting her chin in her palm, she stared out the small oval window, marveling how, after years on the road, she’d actually been homesick. Carson was lucky to have had a successful run of gigs with shooting on location and long flights back to LA. She’d been good at her job, cooperative, indefatigable on the set. Her personal life consisted of long-term friends and countless short-term suitors. By the time she hit thirty-four, however, the long hours and endless partying, the ever-present alcohol and drugs, began to take their toll. Her work got sloppy, she was drinking too much, and her work ethic grew lazy. When she’d overslept and missed a major scene, it was the last straw for the director and he fired her on the spot. Word got out and her reputation was ruined. No one would hire her.


Tags: Mary Alice Monroe Lowcountry Summer Romance
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