I’m so excited to be today’s stop for the book tour of Tessa Arlen’s newest book A Dress of Violet Taffeta.
Thanks to Austenprose, Berkley Books, and NetGalley for both an advanced digital and physical copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Book description according to the media kit:
“A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of La Belle Époque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, who shattered the boundaries of fashion with her magnificently sensual and enchantingly unique designs.
Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, and texture in ways few people can begin to imagine. But is the male dominated world of haute couture, who would use her art for their own gain, ready for her?
When she is deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is left penniless with an aging mother and her five-year-old daughter to support. Desperate to survive, Lucy turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her creative designs and her remarkable eye for color to take her place in the fashion world—failure is not an option.
Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy’s life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her fashion label Lucile, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucy will live on as a trailblazing and innovative fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical novel–the story of Lucy Duff Gordon is so inspiring and interesting–I was drawn in instantly when I learned she was a survivor of the Titanic! Truly, surviving the Titanic is only one of the many extraordinary things about her life. This is a woman who sought for and obtained a divorce at a time that that was almost unheard of, started her own company, was an innovator in the fashion world, and obtained amazing success. I can’t believe I had never heard of her before, but Arlen’s novel makes me want to learn more! Arlen’s writing is lovely and thorough–her descriptions made everything in the story feel real and she made it so easy for me to imagine it all in my head.
This novel covers a longer time period and sometimes the way it skips forward in time is a little hard to follow, particularly when the time skips forward within a chapter, since the beginning of each chapter starts with a date. However, this wasn’t so much of an issue that it affected my liking of the story. What I really appreciate is the author’s note at the end with information about the real-life people featured in this story and the changes the author made regarding them. I found this really helpful because while reading, it felt like some important and perhaps, negative aspects of Lucy’s life were glossed over, but Arlen definitely makes it clear this was intentional.
It was so easy to get lost in this story and I definitely recommend for historical fiction fans! Also, click here for an interview with the author!
Tessa Arlen writes historical fiction when she is not toiling away in her garden. She is the author of the Edwardian mystery series: Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson; the Woman of World War II mystery series. Poppy Redfern. And two standalone historical novels: In Royal Service to the Queen, and A Dress of Violet Taffeta.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Megan. Lucy was such a trailblazer for fashion and women entrepreneurs. Arlen did a fabulous job describing the era and fashions, and in developing the characters. I am looking forward to her next novel.
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