Experience the sultry Southern atmosphere of Atlanta and the magic of the Carolina Lowcountry in this funny and poignant tale of one audacious woman’s quest to find the love she deserves, from New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank.
Leslie Anne Greene Carter is The Last Original Wife among her husband Wesley’s wildly successful Atlanta social set. His cronies have all traded in the mothers of their children they promised to love and cherish—’til death did them part—for tanned and toned young Barbie brides.
If losing the social life and close friends she adored wasn’t painful enough, a series of setbacks shake Les’s world and push her to the edge. She’s had enough of playing the good wife to a husband who thinks he’s doing her a favor by keeping her around. She’s not going to waste another minute on people she doesn’t care to know. Now, she’s going to take some time for herself—in the familiar comforts and stunning beauty of Charleston, her beloved hometown. In her brother’s stately historic home, she’s going to reclaim the carefree girl who spent lazy summers sharing steamy kisses with her first love on Sullivans Island. Along Charleston’s live oak- and palmetto-lined cobblestone streets, under the Lowcountry’s dazzling blue sky, Les will indulge herself with icy cocktails, warm laughter, divine temptation and bittersweet memories. Daring to listen to her inner voice, she will realize what she wants . . . and find the life of which she’s always dreamed.
Told in the alternating voices of Les and Wes, The Last Original Wife is classic Dorothea Benton Frank: an intoxicating tale of family, friendship, self-discovery, and love, that is as salty as a Lowcountry breeze and as invigorating as a dip in Carolina waters on a sizzling summer day.
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About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She divides her time between the New York area and the Lowcountry.
Hometown:New Jersey and Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Place of Birth:Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Read an Excerpt
The Last Original Wife
By Dorothea Frank
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 Dorothea Frank
All rights reserved.
Leslie and Wesley's Present Situation
ATLANTA, SEPTEMBER 2012
Welcome to Saint Magnolia's Wounded Theater. At least that's what
I called it. Within these slick walls reside Atlanta's pish- posh team
of premier psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and relationship counsel-
ors who specialize in the broken hearts/crushed egos of the privi-
leged and renowned. Their lavish confessionals, perched high above
the city, are, well, breathtaking. I was here because my husband,
Wesley, insisted this was the only place he'd even consider receiving,
as he was loath to say, therapy. And as it was on my first visit, the vast
waiting area was packed.
Just for the record? Wesley needed therapy. I. Absolutely. Did. Not.
The circular reception area held a large round workstation of
bird's- eye maple. The countertops of deep brown granite were chis-
eled and polished. Behind them stood two young women who ap-
peared to have fallen from the pages of Vogue magazine. Above them
hung a chandelier worthy of an opera house that I imagined sailed
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right to America directly from the lips of the finest glassblowers of
Murano. Every square foot of their offices was as beautiful as a ses-
sion was insanely expensive, leaving me to wonder where exactly
was this much heralded recession?
“I'm here to see Dr. Katz,” I said.
“And you're Mrs. . . . ?”
“Thank you.” She pecked around on what looked like a keyboard
from the Starship Enterprise and smiled when she found my name
among those on his appointment calendar. I was officially entered
into the captain's log.
“Please make yourself comfortable in the waiting area. There's
bottled water . . .”
My heels clicked across the beige marble flooring that was shot
with veins of black and gold. When the veins of gold caught a stream
of afternoon light, they sparkled like the proverbial streets of para-
dise. Perhaps some people thought all this grandeur was a comfort;
you know, they must be good at what they do if they can afford all
this? Not me. The whole drama was a grand demonstration of con-
spicuous consumption and their complete disregard for carbon foot-
print. I shuddered.
I took a small bottle of cold water from the refreshment station
and sank into one of only two unoccupied overstuffed velvet club
chairs, unscrewed the cap, and took a long drink. Okay, I'd admit
this much, as off- putting as the swank trappings were to me? Well,
the chairs were like a beautiful womb, upholstered in swirls of deep
purple and olive on a field of smooth ecru velvet. I could've slept
in them. No, I could've lived in them. If I thought no one would
have noticed, I might have pushed one through the door, down the
hall, into the elevator, and somehow with God's grace, I would've
the last original wife / 5
smooshed it into the back of my car. Just the thought of it gave me
a little thrill, and this was a time in my life when thrills were not
happening for me in Atlanta.
In between the chairs were small tables that held magazines on
mental health, extreme adventure travel, vegan living, and every
kind of yoga. You could tell a lot about the soul of an organization by
the reading material in its waiting area. For my money, these par-
ticular choices leaned a little to the side of wacko, but, I reminded
myself, my son was a granola- boy who had been living in an ashram
in Nepal for the last three years while he contemplated the uni-
verse instead of completing his MBA. It wasn't like Bertie aspired
to climb Everest and then come home and become an adult, not
that climbing Everest is a childish thing to do. I'm suggesting that's
a lofty goal. No, this was something different. He was completely
under the spell of all things Hindu, Himalayan, and Tibetan. His
current passion was to photograph the people as they went about
their lives in the spectacular landscape near the Roof of the World.
He was transfixed by the exotic temples and stupas, the smells of
burning yak butter candles, and Buddhist monks seated in long lines
on low cushions, chanting in guttural tones. He was completely
taken by the regular people, their devotion to their faith, and their
pilgrimages to Lake Manasarovar. His plan was to sell his pictures
to a magazine like National Geographic or maybe put together a doc-
umentary for PBS with Bill Moyers. I have to confess that while his
photographs were out of this world stunningly beautiful, neither
of these goals had yet to come anywhere close to fruition. So my
beautiful son, Bertie, was still woven into the umbilical cord of his
I have never been able to mail Bertie an additional check for
even fifty dollars because my husband had some very deep- rooted
and completely exhausting control issues. Therefore, I had lived on
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a very, very strict budget and never had an extra fifty dollars. All
spending had to be justified in the accounting department of Wesley
Carter's stingy brain.
This unpleasant detail was one more item on my list entitled
Why Am I Living Like This? Here's how it went: Bertie called Wes and
they made small talk. Eventually Bertie would politely and humbly
ask him for some money to hold him over until this deal or that deal
came through. Wes pitched a fit about it and then took it out on me
for a month or so until Bertie called again. Life as Wes's emotional
dumping ground had long ago become tiresome and ridiculous. And
odd as this may seem, part of me envied and also admired Bertie's
courage to be a nonconforming, unmaterialistic seeker. The only
Excerpted from The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Frank. Copyright © 2013 Dorothea Frank. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved this book. The premise is so unique: a wife of a well -to-do discovers she is that last original (first) wife of all the players in her husband's clique - the other husbands having all traded in for younger models. The character development is top notch. The story travels along at a brisk pace. All in all a great book.
When a woman falls and spends 45 minutes in an empty catch basin on a trip to Scotland, you know that things are not going to well in her life. Leslie Carter has seen her friends get cast off by their husbands for wife 2.0 until she feels like she is the LAST original wife. She has had to put up with dinners and events with these younger women and then finds herself on vacation with the replacement wife for her best friend. Her husband, Wesley has dreamt all of his life about golfing at St. Andrews and off the foursome goes to Scotland. When Les has her accident, the rest of the group keeps walking back to the hotel and doesn’t even realize she is missing. After she is located, Wes leaves her at the hospital so he doesn’t miss his tee time. Back home, Les realizes that her life has not turned out to be what she expected it to be. Yes, she is still married but it’s a marriage by rote not of passion or caring. Her two adult children are irresponsible and users. Wes is a controlling guy and has no appreciation for what Les has done for him over the years. She discovers that financially they are in a much better situation than she was aware of and this is the impetus for her to take a trip to Charleston to visit her brother. Les has time to think and really assess what her life means and what she really wants to do with her future. So many books lately feature the discarded wife being screwed by her cheating ex and having to rebuild her life on nothing but pluck. Then she gets financial revenge and a new man and everything is great. I love a good revenge plot as well as the next person, (Note: Pawley’s Island by this author is one of the absolute best of that genre) but this book is different. Les decides to take a break from her marriage after a period of reflection and increased self-awareness. She does meet up with an old flame but that is not the answer to her problems. Les needs to see what it is about herself that put her in the position she is presently in. How did she become ok with settling for less than she deserved? Why does she let other people make her feel that her wants and needs are less important than her husband’s and children’s? Is fear of what your life will be without your marriage a good enough reason to stay? Wes is not really a bad guy, just self-absorbed and oblivious. When the couple goes to counseling, the real difference between them is highlighted. Les wants to find out if this marriage can be saved and Wes just wants his old life back with no changes on his end. There is an interesting side story about a woman writer from earlier times in Charleston in whose story Les becomes interested. The descriptions of the “Barbie” wives are funny and pathetic at the same time. One of Ms. Frank’s skills is how she defines her characters and integrates the Southern mystique into her books. I thought that this book was a little less South-centric than some of her other books. That said, I enjoyed reading this book but I expected no less from one of my favorite authors.
I loved this story. She had me laughing and hooked from the first page. She takes you through a marriage in trouble and coming into herself in a hilarious way. This is a must read!
I have read all Dorothea's Books. I have enjoyed them all and would recommend them to all who enjoy a good story and of course a laugh.
Loved this book! It made me laugh out loud.
Dorthea Benton Frank is a wonderful author. I picked up The Last Original Wife because I liked the title. The book more than met my expectations. The characters are richly drawn. The plot is easy to follow. I highly recommend this book.
I found this book very interesting. The author alternates between narrators, which takes a little getting used to, but is overall very affective. Five stars.
I had trouble adjusting to the author's style at first. It didn't take me long after to get immersed in the plot. Fun, light read.Found myself grinning or laughing out loud. Only gave it 3 stars because of the unrealistic, fairytale ending. Overall, good book.
I used to thoroughly enjoy reading this author's works. I am now finding them to be redundant in plot and characters. I found this last book very disappointing.
Very interesting story love a mature story that comes out good for the first wife
Love, love, love her books! They make me smile and embrace those that I love.
Couldn't put it down. May be her best yet. Definitely two thumbs up. Loved they way the story unfolds.
I have read all of Dorothea's novels and always have been so excited when a new one is published. This disjointed effort was such a disappointment. I guess she was tired of her delightful formula that had worked such magic in the past. I will preview more carefully her next novel before I buy it.
Always love reaing Dorothea Benton Frank's books. This is a good story, had to keep reading it, to see how it ended. Can't wait till she writes another one.
Easy, fun beach read! Good plot, great characters, the usual sassy and on point Dorthea Benton Frank novel.
Adds humor to some unfortunately true family disfunctions.
This is such a great read. I am so glad I bought this in book form so I can stash it in my dresser to read again. I have read other Dorothea Benton Frank novels and have loved many of them. This, however, is my current favorite.
I love this writer. This is a totally different book for her, but I enjoyed it. I live in the Lowcountry, so I always enjoy her references to Charleston, etc.
Loved this book but then again I love all Dorothea Benton Frank's books! Her books make me laugh out loud and this one was no exception. Read this book and then go back and read her other books. You won't be disappointed.
Loved this book! Very enjoyable read and of course my favorite character in the story was the city of Charleston... The characters are relateable esp how the author rights them. You as a reader really enjoy being on the journey with them. Have already recommended this book to many friends and even some strangers
I just finished the audio The Last Original Wife and loved it! I started reading the book; however, switched to the audio as it was so funny and full of southern humor – I did not want to miss a thing! This is my third book by Dorothea Benton Frank this week – and becoming a huge fan. She is such a wonderful storyteller – she puts you in the mood and adore her detailed descriptions of the settings (when you are from the south the food, design, and style matters – as they love to entertain! If you are over the age of 50 you will enjoy this book as I give it 5 stars and highly recommend! Having worked in the Charleston area and lived in Atlanta – loved hearing about all the great restaurants and this book makes you want to head to the Low Country as soon as possible. The characters were so engaging -- loved the way she used the first person sarcastic phrases from Les and Wes (awesome)! The narrator did an excellent job capturing the southern dialogue, as well and fell in love with the gay brother (would love to see a movie of this book)- it is movie worthy.
This was a very good book, one that I bet alot of wives or ex-wives will relate to very well. Loved the suspense and all the wonderful Charleston History this gave. Love reading all of her books.
What a fun fun fun & interesting, entertaining fabulously written story! Quite a page turner!
I found the title intriguing and I wasn't disappointed. This is the first time I've read this author and I will definitely read more. The book had me laughing out loud at times.
Since I've started read Dorothea's books, I can't decide which one I like best. I'm finding myself ordering more of her books, rather than other authors. She's a great writer, and I love reading about the southern hospitality and family ties. The whole southern charm is unbeatable.