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.