As a Camellia Society debutante, Sarah Walters endured the many lectures about proper manners, correct dance steps and meeting the right sort of boys suitable for marriage consideration at the Charleston Cotillion Training School. With friends Bitsy, Annie and Charlotte, Sarah survives this southern rite of passage while trying to live up to the impossibly high standards set by her older sister Eloise. Sarah cannot hope to get accepted into Yale like Eloise did, settling instead for a northern college and falls into a lifestyle of binge drinking. Eventually all the Camellias find their way to New York City and are drawn into an array of self destructive behavior and less then satisfactory lifestyles. Sarah has serious relationship problems beginning when she follows her mother’s advice and dumps Lee, the hunky boy who took her virginity. She gets in over her head with Max, a young man with some serious issues glossed over with the veneer of old money and her love life doesn’t improve with time. A couple of life-altering events force Sarah back home where she discovers a hard truth about her mother and perhaps, one more chance at the love that has eluded her for so long.
Crouch’s wit and humor keep the story from becoming too depressing as these southern belles move away from the warm comfort of Charleston’s society circles and venture into colder northern climes. It is a bittersweet journey of discovery and eventual self-acceptance that will leave readers cheering for these flawed, transplanted Camellia’s and a nice introduction to southern literature.