The delicious appeal of Charleston is best indulged by strolling her elegant neighborhoods, peeking through wrought-iron gates and old wavy windowpanes, wondering what stories lurk. Native Margaret Bradham Thornton knows this distinctly South-of-Broad pleasure and treats readers of Charleston—due out July 29 from HarperCollins imprint Ecco—to many such jaunts as her characters, Eliza Poinsett and Henry Heyward, rekindle a long-smoldering spark during Eliza’s return home from London, where she’s an art historian involved with boyfriend Jamie. Poor Jamie never has a chance as Thornton conjures a dual seduction—both place (Charleston) and person (the amiable blue-blood Heyward) tug at Eliza’s heart. The narrative at times feels predictable, with recognizable characters and location name-dropping, but then, the novel is aptly titled; in Charleston, folks named after streets do in fact frequent the Yacht Club.
Princeton grad Thornton is the award-winning editor of Tennessee Williams’ Notebooks. Like Williams, she understands drama, passion, and the poetic mystery of the heart, and while Eliza is no Stella or Blanche, she’s a smart, strong, vulnerable gal you’ll enjoy getting to know. She discovers, in the rather abrupt ending, that “Charleston had not finished with her;” we should all be so lucky.
Meet Thornton: Blue Bicycle Books at 420 King St. is hosting a book release party on July 31, 5-7 p.m. Visit www.bluebicyclebooks.com.