Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Summer Reading 2022: Gilt by Jamie Brenner


I discovered Jamie Brenner last summer when a book came across my desk at the library that featured a family vineyard and Jackie Collins novels. So of course I had to read it, and Blush was an unexpected surprise. You can read my review from last year here.  

Jamie returns this summer with Gilt, and I enjoyed this just as much. Centered around a family jewelry store in Manhattan, this is the tale of three sisters, one niece, a pink diamond engagement ring, and a family curse. 

The Pavlin family has been in the jewelry business for over a hundred years, and their famous store in Manhattan was the first to market diamond rings as engagement rings. They've ridden that marketing high for decades, but now Elodie, the great granddaughter of the founder of the company, knows the store is in trouble. People don't want to shop for jewelry in a store; they can buy online. Jewelry isn't what it used to be, and the store is in the red. Elodie's only way out is to have a big splashy auction to sell famous family jewelry pieces.

Only problem is she needs the okay of her surviving sister Celeste and her niece Gemma. 

Celeste lives in Provincetown and left the family decades ago. She owns an antique shop and lives with her love, Jack. Gemma's mother, Paulina, was the famous "it" girl of the 1990's; her beauty and endless travels around the world kept the Pavlin family in the news, and business was good. Her tragic death, along with her handsome husband, left Gemma without parents and being raised by her other grandparents, the Maybrooks. She has always felt resentment for the Pavlin family because they seemingly ignored her existence. 

Now Gemma is an adult and aspiring jewelry designer. She wants the one thing she was promised: the infamous Electric Rose diamond engagement ring her mother promised to her. That ring caused a huge rift between the three sisters: Elodie, Celeste, and Paulina. 

Elodie has her work cut out for her, and heads to Provincetown to convince Celeste to sign the papers approving the auction. Gemma ends up in Provincetown to meet her Aunt Celeste and find out more about the whereabouts of the Electric Rose. 

It's a summer of complicated family issues; each woman has a lot to work through. It's a crossroads for them all; a chance to look at life and figure out where to go next. And in the center of it all is Gemma and her budding jewelry business. Her desire to have the Electric Rose ring is palpable. Not for money, but because it was the one thing she remembers her mother always wearing. But Elodie isn't saying where it is, and Gemma refuses to sign the auction papers until she has the ring. 

I dived into the novel pretty quickly, and got to know all the characters. Provincetown sounds like a pretty cool place to spend the summer. The tensions between the sisters and their niece are definitely well drawn out; the other side stories keep everything balanced and give some relief to the family drama. An  unexpected romance, another chance at a broken romance, and ooh--will Celeste finally marry Jack? 

This would, of course, make a really good Netflix movie. Perfect summer read. 

Rating: 4/6 for a novel about a family broken apart, with a chance to heal old wounds. Moving from New York City to Cape Cod this tale of three women reuniting to become family was very entertaining. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Summer Reading 2022: Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen


I'm not overstating when I say knowing Sarah Addison Allen has a new book out this year brings me immense joy. I've read all of her books, and still to this day recommend Garden Spells to people.

I was being patient knowing I'd probably have to wait until Other Birds was published before I bought a copy and enjoyed it. However, a friend of mine was able to get me an ARC from Sarah Addison Allen herself (a signed one, at that!) when she made an appearance at the American Library Association Conference in June. My friend stood in line and even got there early and patiently waited. Can't thank him enough! 

You bet I set aside everything else I'm reading and dove into Other Birds and breathed a sigh of relief stepping back into SAA's magical words.

Other Birds takes place on Mallow Island, off the coast of South Carolina. Now a tourist destination, Mallow Island has a special building tucked away down an alley: the Dellawisp. Named after little blue birds that inhabit the trees around the building, it is home to some quirky residents, and the new home to Zoey. Zoey has come to the Dellawisp to live in the apartment left by her mother. She's finally left her toxic home in Oklahoma where her father and stepmother have made it clear she's not wanted. Only eighteen, Zoey is on her own, ready to start college, and trying to find a connection to her deceased mother. 

The Dellawisp is unusual, to be sure. There's magic in the air-the birds, a few ghosts, and the residents all combine to create an atmosphere of secrets, loss, love, and chances to create happiness. If only Zoey and Lucy, Charlotte, Frasier, and Mac can embrace the unknown and find the beginnings to their stories, while others (ghosts!) find the end of their stories. Each character has a chance to tell their story which I loved. There wasn't a character I didn't like, or feel sympathy for as they revealed their stories. The friendship that formed between Charlotte, Zoey, and Mac was delightful to see unfold. 

This was a much anticipated book for me, and I wasn't disappointed at all. I happily sunk into a world only SAA can create. I turned the last page with a big sigh of contentment, and a little bit of sadness that I'd finished. 

Rating: 6/6 for sheer enjoyment at reading SAA's newest novel. I adore her tales of every day people with every day problems, sprinkled in with a bit of magic. A reminder that there is still wonder in the small things; the world is a magical place if we take the time to look for it--it's right there in front of us! 

Available August 30th in the United States in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen


Followers of my blog know I'm a huge fan of historical fiction. I was asked to be part of the blog tour for A Dress of Violet Taffeta and jumped at the chance. You'll want to grab this novel when it is available on July 5th in the U.S. 

Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon is a fascinating historical figure. She made this a hard-to-put down novel, about her rise from a scandalously divorced woman to one of the most respected and revered clothing designers of the early 20th century. Toss in surviving the Titanic, and you've got a life that seems as if it can't possibly be true-but it is.

Lucy's first husband was a loser who left her practically penniless, with a young daughter. She'd always been intrigued by clothing design, and had an uncanny ability to know exactly what colors and style of dresses would suit women the best. With nothing to lose, she begins designing dresses for the upper crust women of British society, all while making it look to all that it wasn't really "work", but a genteel woman gently giving advice to other women. She grew her business over the years, adding more staff and moving to bigger homes. 

Lucy is a remarkable woman, and her fictional tale is hard to put down. She moved women's fashion forward, and wow! she accomplished a lot. Her second married to Sir Duff-Gordon was beneficial to both, but their trip on the Titanic became a scandal. Surviving in a lifeboat that only held a few people, she was appalled at the terrible tragedy, and was one of the only passengers to testify at the hearings. Her husband became a central figure in the Titanic trials. 

I so enjoyed this novel. The fashion--oh my. Stunning descriptions of color, fabric, and style. A glimpse at a world long gone, and a way of life long gone, too. Lucy and her assistant Celia, along with Lucy's sister Elinor are three strong women, making successes in a society that frowned on strong, independent, smart women. 

Anyone interested in clothing design or fashion, the Titanic, and a woman who helped determine the fashion of the 1890's all the way into the early days of Hollywood will want to dive into this novel. It clips along quickly and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There's plenty online about Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon--photos of her and her clothing, as well as her life. 

A big thanks to Austin PR for inviting me along on this blog tour! Also thanks to Berkley (Penguin/Random House) for a copy of the book. 

Rating: 5/6 for a solid, well researched novel about one of the earlier fashion influencers with an amazing talent and eye for color and fabric. Strong women, independence, taking chances, and female friendship are all major themes in this novel. A truly remarkable trailblazer. Grab it on July 5th!

Available in trade paperback and ebook.