With that gorgeous book cover, title and book description, I just couldn't wait to read this book. But it was not what I expected, and I struggled for the first half of the book.
Title: The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Category: Adult Fiction, 384 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction / Historical
Published: February 7, 2017
Content Rating: PG+13 (This book deals with mature subjects. There is parental abandonment and abuse. There are a few vulgar words and one f-word. There is also one explicit sex scene.)
For readers of Lucinda Riley, Sarah Jio, or Susan Meissner, this gripping historical debut novel tells the story of two women: one, an immigrant seamstress who disappears from San Francisco’s gritty streets in 1876, and the other, a young woman in present day who must delve into the secrets of her husband’s wealthy family only to discover that she and the missing dressmaker might be connected in unexpected ways.
An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom...
San Francisco: 1876
Immigrant dressmakers Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret O'Brien struggle to provide food for their siblings, while mending delicate clothing for the city's most affluent ladies. When wealthy Lucas Havensworth enters the shop, Hanna's future is altered forever. With Margaret's encouragement and the power of a borrowed green dress, Hanna dares to see herself as worthy of him. Then Margaret disappears, and Hanna turns to Lucas. Braving the gritty streets of the Barbary Coast and daring to enter the mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stumbles upon Margaret’s fate, forcing her to make a devastating decision...one that will echo through the generations.
San Francisco: Present Day
In her elegant Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Sarah Havensworth struggles to complete the novel she quit her job for. Afraid to tell her husband of her writer’s block, Sarah is also hiding a darker secret—one that has haunted her for 14 years. Then a news headline from 1876 sparks inspiration: Missing Dressmakers Believed to be Murdered. Compelled to discover what happened to Hannelore and Margaret, Sarah returns to her roots as a journalist. Will her beautiful heirloom engagement ring uncover a connection to Hanna Schaeffer?
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani
With that gorgeous book cover, title and book description, I just couldn't wait to read this book. But it was not what I expected, and I struggled for the first half of the book. I persisted and did enjoy the rest of it, mainly because of the historical part of the story. I usually like books with dual timelines, but in this case, I think that if the present day story had been eliminated and only the historical part was written and better developed, this would have made for a more substantial novel.
In the present day we have Sarah, a journalist turned novel writer who is hiding a major secret from her past. She stumbles upon a news headline from 1876 about two dressmakers believed to be murdered and decides to pursue it, making a stunning discovery linked to her husband's family. In the historical storyline, we have Hannelore (Hanna) and Margaret, two immigrant friends who work together as dressmakers. They both have severely abusive parents and struggle to take care of their siblings. Then Margaret disappears and Hanna enlists the help of a rich gentleman named Lucas Havensworth, with whom she develops a mutual attachment.
What I enjoyed the most about this novel is the setting. The author is very familiar with her city and she brings the 19th century San Francisco to life. The Barbary Coast with its gritty streets, poor immigrants, opium-drugged prostitutes and hard working class thrives in this novel. I liked Hanna's character and felt she was the most developed of any of the other characters, who unfortunately were under-developed. I also liked the attention that was given to the plight of women and the less fortunate, the societal injustices and hard life of the immigrants, although both Hanna and Margaret's immigrant families were shown to be cruel.
From a historical perspective, the whole romance between Hanna and Lucas was very unlikely, she being a seamstress from a poor immigrant family and he from high society. It also developed way too quickly, within the span of a few days. The ending was wrapped up quickly too, but was realistic, thanks to Hanna's good judgement.
Sarah's story in the present day...was not very engaging. There wasn't much depth to her and her relationship with her husband and I was frustrated with her most of the time. She had major issues with a traumatic event in her teen life (rightly so, mind you), causing her to have panic attacks and not wanting to have a child, although this was a decision she made before getting married and did not share with her husband. Her husband never questions her behaviour when it's clear she needs to see a therapist. I just found the whole thing was poorly dealt with in terms of the psychological implications and how it was resolved between the two of them once he finds out what her devastating secret is, and not from her. Too quickly and conveniently, without much communication. Everything is tied up neatly, which is not the reality of PTSD.
Overall, this was an okay read. I wasn't emotionally invested as I thought I would have been. The title was misleading (what dowry?) I kept asking myself as the story progressed. However, if you are looking for a light read and love the setting of historical San Francisco, you may enjoy this one.
To read more reviews, visit Meredith Jaeger's page on TLC Book Tours.
About the Author:
Find out more about Meredith at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.