Lucy Scarpelli, an Italian dressmaker from New York, befriends socialite Rowena Langdon as she's making her summer wardrobe. It's an unlikely friendship, but one that Rowena encourages by inviting Lucy to the family mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Grateful for Lucy's skill in creating clothes that hide her physical injury, Rowena encourages Lucy to dream of a better future.
One day Lucy encounters an intriguing man on the Cliff Walk, and love begins to blossom. Yet Lucy resists, for what man will accept her family responsibilities? Rowena also deals with love as she faces a worrisome arranged marriage to a wealthy heir. And Lucy's teenage sister, Sofia, takes up with a man of dubious character. All three women struggle as their lives, and those of each unlikely suitor, become intertwined in a web of secrets and sacrifice. Will any of them find true happiness?
This book was named to Booklist's "Top 10 Romances of 2011".
©2011 Nancy Moser (P)2011 Recorded Books, LLC
"Christy Award-winning Moser excels at vivid historical settings... and compelling stories featuring resilient, uncompromising heroines." (Booklist)
"Moser knows how to mix love and friendship across class lines. Fans of fashion and romance will want this for their keeper shelves." (Romantic Times)
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I have entirely mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it had a very slow start and I didn't really get invested in the characters' lives until halfway through the book. On the other, I loved that Nancy decided to write about Italian immigrants and the struggles they had, which is not something I've come across in books from this period. I enjoyed the details about dressmaking and while I wasn't so fussed about the mystery aspect of the book, I loved the conclusion. The plot suddenly got a lot more interested in the last 10% of this book, when the truth about Lucy's beau and Rowena's secret friend was revealed. I didn't expect either of these, and this definitely made me root for their prospective love interests. Sophia was more difficult to like, especially because of her immaturity, but bravo to Nancy for writing a character who wasn't particularly likeable! I liked the way Sophia's storyline ended in the epilogue, not totally happily-ever-after, but with hints of something good to come. But it's a bit unrealistic that all of the main characters ended up with men of a different class, and I'm not entirely sure that Rowena's parents would allow her to make such a lifestyle choice, even with her infirmity. That was another quirk about this novel - I don't often read books in which the heroine is disabled in some way, and I liked how the implications Rowena's infirmity impacted on her life and how she had to over come this. Rowena was probably my favourite character, just because Lucy seemed a bit too perfect at times, almost verging on self-righteous.
The book definitely got more interesting once it relocated to Newport, but this wasn't until halfway through the book, which was when the romance aspect appeared. If it weren't for the twists towards the end of the novel, I think I'd give this 3*, but as I didn't expect the truth about Lucy's beau or the identity of the childhood friend that Rowena was always talking about, I'll give the book 3.5*.
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