Shelby Cole is the youngest daughter of the prominent African American Cole family. The Cole family and their affluent friends are gathering for Shelby's summer wedding to a white jazz musician named Meade Wyler. The Cole family (and their friends) are shocked by the upcoming wedding because they are of the belief that Meade is beneath Shelby. In fact, they feel that Shelby could've married anyone she chose. Why, they ask themselves, has she settled for a poor musician? Shelby's parents are a bit relieved that she has chosen to hold her wedding in Martha's Vineyard where the Ovalites (a group of the black bourgeoisie who have ruled African American "society" for decades and of which the Coles are members) will be able to attend the festivities. The Ovalites had never gotten over the elopement of Shelby's older sister Liz.
As Shelby prepares for her wedding she is unprepared for the arrival of a new man in town, Lute McNeil. Lute is African American and the married father of three little girls. Lute is married to a white woman, who he is desperate to divorce. Lute is made even more desperate when he lays eyes on Shelby and vows to make her his wife, despite the fact that she is soon to be wed. Shelby grapples with her attraction to Lute and rethinks her upcoming wedding to Meade.
This report prepared by Sandra Calhoune