Out today, Kim Boykin’s latest novel Palmetto Moon tempts readers with the tantalizing possibilities of love at first sight.
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Dear Mother and Father,
I cannot live in the world you’ve planned for me, and regret circumstances have forced me to leave. Do not worry about me. As you’ve often reminded me, I’m a Hadley. I will make my mark on the world.
Vada Hadley is not your typical blonde-haired Charleston debutante. Her lavish lifestyle, including shopping trips to New York City, is funded by her parent’s considerable fortune. Although the world around them is progressing (it’s 1947 after all), the Hadleys insist on an arranged marriage for their daughter. Life with the despicable Justin McLeod promises to doom Vada to a stifling role in society and an unfaithful husband.
Faced with the prospect of becoming Mrs. McLeod, she runs away to sleepy Round O, choosing the unknown over the careful future her parents have planned. Away from the confines of her parent’s mansion, Vada decides to search for her friend Darby, who ran away earlier to chase her own dreams. As her search progresses, the girl who draped herself in Dior gives way to a plainly determined woman and devoted friend.
“I’m one of those writers who hears the voices in her head, and Vada’s came through loud and clear,” says author Kim Boykin.
As she jotted down Vada’s voice, Boykin’s character progressed into the gutsy runaway bride that jolts life into sleepy Round O.
“When I started out, I thought I was writing about a fluffy blonde debutante. Boy, I was wrong,” Boykin adds. “She was feisty and incredibly progressive for her time.”
Vada’s arrival in Round O introduces memorable characters that shape her shaky future. Miss Mamie, the crotchety owner of Round O’s boarding house where Vada stays, shuffles around the creaky structure, muttering under her breath and hollering at whoever is unlucky enough to come within eyesight. Claire, a widow and fellow boarder, and her three young boys tiptoe around Miss Mamie’s wrath.
Kim Boykin described the buildings of Round O simply from her imagination, so was delighted to find that Miss Mamie’s boarding house stands exactly as she pictured on a dusty street in the real Round O.
“Claire’s sacrifice for her children and her tenacious friendship with Vada lives up to the theme that always seems to find its way into my women’s fiction — women helping women find their happily ever after,” Boykin explains.
Nearby, in the local diner, Frank Darling flips tender crab cakes and fervently believes in love at first sight. (Get his crab cake recipe here.)
Even from the kitchen, he can see that her hands are pale and soft. Her lips part for the fork. He imagines them parting for his lips. She makes the face he wants to see every day for the rest of his life. Scrunched up like a young girl’s, blissful like a woman’s. Her shoulders rise and then lower slowly in approval as she takes another bite.” – Chapter 3
Frank and Vada embark on a whirlwind romance, complicated by small town politics and the murky secrets they both conceal. Vada has to learn to release the past and embrace the present, but certain people from home are not as willing to let go. Boykin does an excellent job infusing the traditional runaway bride story with colorful characters and an unexpectedly feisty heroine, mixing in plot twists and serving up surprises with every chapter.
Thanks to a collaboration with Frank Lee, executive chef of S.N.O.B. in Charleston, readers can taste Vada’s favorite crab cakes for themselves in a special section nestled in the back of the book. Boykin realized the dry “Reader Questions” in her previous books weren’t cutting it.
“I went to 25 book club meetings last year, and only one group whipped out those questions,” she says.
Palmetto Moon also contains several recipes straight from the kitchen of Frank Darling himself, including Slightly North of Broad Peach Cobbler, Fried Chicken and Salmon Croquettes. The inclusion of recipes only adds to the richness of the story.
Like Frank and Vada themselves, Palmetto Moon has an interesting back story.
After failing to convince her editor of Palmetto Moon‘s possibilities, Boykin met one of Penguin’s salespeople over a cocktail.
“She liked my work and asked what was next,” she says. “I told her Palmetto Moon, and she said, ‘I can sell the heck out of that.’ That was all my editor needed to hear.”
With a book steeped in so much Southern goodness, it’s no wonder that Boykin draws much of her inspiration from the South itself. “Everything about the South inspires me, the food, the incredible array of cultures, the influence of religion,” she says. “Maybe I just don’t know any better, but I believe there isn’t a more diverse area in our country. Just looking at South Carolina, you’ll find the Lowcountry has its own rhythm, food and culture that is distinct from the Piedmont or the Upstate. People say New York is the melting pot — that you can find anything, anytime. It’s the same in the South, except most of our sidewalks roll up around 9:00.”
Chat with Kim Boykin via Twitter on Friday, August 8, from 1-2 CST (2-3 EST) using the hashtag #southernlit. You can also sign into our chat room here. We have one copy of Palmetto Moon to give away courtesy of Penguin Random House. To enter to *win, comment here through Monday and tell us why you need a copy of this book.
*You must live in the United States to win. Winner will be notified by email and must respond within two weeks. If winner fails to respond, another one will be chosen.