Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday Review: The Wedding Dress

The Wedding Dress
By Rachel Hauck
Publishers: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: April 3, 2012

Charlotte Malone, owner of Malone & Co., an upscale bridal boutique, should be a happy woman. Just over a year ago an anonymous benefactor deposited a hundred thousand dollars in her bank account, a windfall that allowed her to remodel her shop and increase her inventory of designer gowns. Charlotte’s gift for finding the perfect wedding dress for her customers has earned her the patronage of the reigning Miss Alabama and a feature in a prestigious bridal magazine. Her own wedding is a mere two months away. But Charlotte is bothered by a nagging feeling that things just aren’t right. The feeling sends her to the Ludlow Estate atop Red Mountain, a spot she visited as a child with her mother, for solitude and prayer, but she finds herself in the middle of the annual Ludlow Foundation auction. One thing irresistibly leads to another, and Charlotte leaves the auction the owner of a hundred-year-old trunk with a welded lock and unknown contents.

When Charlotte’s engagement to Tim Rose is broken, she turns her attention to the trunk. With Tim’s help, the lock is broken and its contents—a beautiful, timeless wedding dress and a pair of dogtags from the 1960s—revealed. As Charlotte traces the history of the dress, the stories of three other women surface: Emily Canton, who, in 1912, wore two wedding dresses, one by the dressmaker of Birmingham’s elite and one by a former slave, Taffy Hayes; Mary Grace Fox, who in 1939 married her preacher man in the Taffy Hayes dress Emily Canton Ludlow sold to her for ten dollars; and Hillary Saltonstall, who wore the dress when she married her military hero shortly before his deployment to Vietnam in 1968. Their stories not only intersect with Charlotte’s but they also give Charlotte her past and inspire the courage and faith she needs to claim her future.

The Wedding Dress is part contemporary romance, part historical romance, and part Christian allegory. As contemporary romance, the cultural references are employed to good effect. While enough detail is given to evoke the Depression and the 1960s, the richest historical period is the early twentieth century, the setting for Emily's story. The racial prejudice and the restrictions on women's lives are integral parts of her experience. The characters in all the stories are engaging, the multiple stories are interwoven skillfully, and the faith element is an organic part of the characterization rather than a sermon disguised as fiction. 

If you like Inspirationals, I highly recommend this book. If you avoid inspirational fiction because you assume it is badly written or preachy in tone, this novel will prove you wrong on both counts. I especially appreciated that while the book qualifies as a kisses-only romance, the author shows her characters as fully dimensional human beings for whom physical desire is natural.

Do you read Inspirationals? What are your favorites?

Note: As some of you know, I was in the hospital for several days last week and not feeling up to par for several days before and after that period. I apologize for the missed posts and fully expect to be back on track with Tuesday Reviews and Friday musings from now on. 


quantum said...

Great to see you back in fine form Janga!

I find your description attractive, though wonder if the book is perhaps weighted heavily towards exclusively feminine interest. Its the voice that I look to first though, so perhaps I will download a sample to get a taste.

I like 'inspirational fiction' if it is truly fiction involving faith and spirituality and not a propagandist attempt to convert to particular views.

I would regard some of Herman Hesse's books as inspirational. I particularly enjoyed 'Sidhartha' and 'The Glass Bead Game'

Not sure that I have read much inspirational romance, at least it hasn't registered as such.

Would Catherine Anderson's Comanche books qualify for example, as they involve the Comanche Indians beliefs, world view and response to being 'robbed of their land' by the White immigrants.

Janga said...

Thanks, Q. It's good to be back.

The term "Inspirationals" when applied to romance fiction generally means Christian fiction. Certainly the broader concept could include other faiths, but while I've seen arguments for greater inclusiveness in the subgenre, I have never seen the books.

Some of Anderson's books cetainly encompass issues of faith, as do several books bt Mary Jo Putney and Barbara Samuel/Barbara O'Neal (including her most recent), but they are not categorized as Inspirationals. That term seems to be reserved for books published by Christian publishers or under specific imprints such as Harlequin's Steeple Hill.

irisheyes said...

I generally shy away from the inspirationals. I've kind of avoided them just for the reasons you stated. I wanted to avoid being preached to and I think I would miss the physical aspect of love that they would appear to skip over.

I've been contemplating reading a Cheryl St. John inspirational. I love her categories and I assume the storytelling and sexual tension would probably be the same.

I guess when it comes right down to it I just really want a good story and if it happens to be an inspirational I'm okay with that.

irisheyes said...

I hope you are feeling better and your hospital stay was nothing serious! You're in my thoughts and prayers :)

Janga said...

I'm with you on the good story, Irish. I think Inspys are like other subgenres--and, indeed, fiction of all sorts: about 10 percent are very bad, about 10 percent are truly excellent, and most fall between the extremes. There are some wonderful stories being written by Inspirational authors--stories that are not at all preachy, that focus on characters who, as the song says, "fall down and get up."

Rachel Hauck is a good writer.
I think you'd enjoy The Wedding Dress.

Janga said...

Thanks for the thoughts and prayers, Irish. I am feeling much better.