Two girls - estranged cousins - from vastly different worlds. When circumstances result in the girls being suddenly thrown together, trying to force "family" into working, Isabelle and Mirabelle quickly find out just how different their worlds are.
Izzy has never had it easy, and is used to working hard - fighting - for what she needs. Mira, in contrast, is the only daughter of a well-to-do politician, and is accustomed to the finer things of life. Neither girl would ever dream of dabbling in the world of the other, let alone finding herself somehow connected to it - but that's just what happens when Izzy's grandmother becomes too ill to care for her. Suddenly, Izzy is whisked from her boardwalk beachtown to neighboring Emerald Cove to live with family she never knew existed. What happens next is only to be expected when oil and water are mixed: chaos.
Mira's friends quickly come up with a plan to disgrace Izzy so badly that she'll have to leave their perfectly ordered social realm entirely. Unfortunately, Mira is caught up in the scheme, and even as she grows into herself, the consequences of that involvement could be substantial. Izzy finds her own circle of friends and support, and slowly begins to realize that she can take what's dished out by the social belles of Emerald Cove, or she can fight back and prove them wrong. She fights. And by fighting, she learns that sometimes being strong means trusting other people. Mira also learns some hard lessons, with a little help from her cousin, and realizes that being true to herself will make her not only a happier person, but a better person. As the two girls slowly discover these truths, they tentatively forge a relationship - that is quickly tested by two bombshell revelations during the big fall bash Izzy helped organize for the Butterflies (a social club at the prep school). With everything they ever knew shaken to the core - again - Izzy and Mira must dig down deep and discover the strength that comes from being a Belle.
Calonita has done a masterful job of creating believable tension, and fleshing out intriguing characters. The fact that it's set in my homestate of North Carolina is not too shabby either, especially when you start thinking about the idea of "Southern Belles" and how the title can work in reference to both that concept and the names of Isabelle and Mirabelle. Definitely looking forward to the next installment, and seeing what happens next for Izzy and Mira.
ARC provided by publisher for review.