Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

The Dress Thief – Natalie Meg Evans

Historical Fiction
4*s

Who would have thought a book about couture would also inform me about the Spanish civil war that was raging before the start of World War II? Not this reader and so as much as I was looking forward to learning about the world of fashion I’m pleased to report there was far more on offer in The Dress Thief.

As the title suggests the book looks at the business of copying designer fashion and our heroine is caught up in this dubious business. Designers were alert to the problem and employed different methods to keep their finished articles under wraps to try and foil the counterfeiters but when people are desperate, they do desperate things.

The setting is Paris in the 1930s and Alix Gower is recruited by a friend who lives on a barge supporting his two younger sisters to draw designs of a scarf. He will then sell the design onto another woman who will have the designs made up and sold at a fraction of the cost with the profits being split between them. After all Alix needs the money too as she supplements her wages as a telephone operator to support herself and her Grandmother, Meme.

Alix’s background is full of tragedy, both her parents are dead and the family have moved from England to France because of anti-Semitism with the support of a wealthy Count who fought with her father in the war and an old artist friend of Meme but the underlying feeling is that the past is a shadowy country. But with a dream to pursue Alix concentrates on getting accepted as a seamstress at a high fashion house despite the drop in wages she wants the role to fulfil her ambitions to be designer but she needs to be accepted to earn a decent amount of money through stealing some designs to sell through the counterfeiter’s network.

There is no doubt that men are attracted to Alix and she has one admirer in the form of Verrian Haviland, a war reporter who has recently returned from Spain but a nightclub owner also has his eye on her and he sees his chance when Verrian returns to Spain.

Through the engaging story-telling we learn about all the different parts that go into making a high couture outfit, from the cutting room to the final showing on the mannequins, or as we know them nowadays models. The rush to get a collection finished, the choice of fabric, the ingenious ideas used to show the dresses off to their best advantage are all included. And of course Alix has got caught up in a plot to steal the designs despite her ambitions to be a designer so we have a moral dilemma too!

This is a story of all those things that make for an involved read; there are various mysteries including a death, family relationships, having a dream and a romance, all perfectly executed. And no story about couture in Paris would be complete without the big names; Channel, Hermès and Schiaparelli to underpin the glamorous angle of this delightful read but ultimately this is a story of contrasts, the wealth of the women who wear the designer outfits to the poverty which exists in the city where the clouds of war are gathering.

The Dress Thief was my thirty-second read in the Mount TBR 2017 challenge qualifying as having been bought back in July 2014.

mount-tbr-2017

 

 

First Published UK: May 2014
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 592
Genre:Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (November 29)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I am currently reading The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evens as a change from all things dark and dastardly.

Blurb

Alix Gower may be poor but she’s also ambitious, and she’d do anything to secure her dream job in one of Paris’s premier fashion houses. But Alix also has a secret: she supports her family by stealing from the very houses she so adores.
But can Alix risk her reputation and her relationships forever? And is the handsome English reporter she keeps bumping into really to be trusted? Amazon

I have just finished reading Poison Panic: Arsenic deaths in 1840s Essex by Helen Barrell as I thought it was perfect timing, now that we are thinking about the big Christmas dinner, to brush up on poisoners…

Blurb

For a few years in the 1840s, Essex was notorious in the minds of Victorians as a place where women stalked the winding country lanes looking for their next victim to poison with arsenic. It’s a terrible image – and also one that doesn’t seem to have much basis in truth – but this was a time of great anxiety.

The 1840s were also known as the ‘hungry ’40s’, when crop failures pushed up food prices and there was popular unrest across Europe. The decade culminated in a cholera epidemic in which tens of thousands of people in the British Isles died. It is perhaps no surprise that people living through that troubled decade were captivated by the stories of the ‘poisoners’: that death was down to ‘white powder’ and the evil intentions of the human heart.

Sarah Chesham, Mary May and Hannah Southgate are the protagonists of this tale of how rural Essex, in a country saturated with arsenic, was touched by the tumultuous 1840s. Amazon

Next I intend to read Give Me The Child by Mel McGrath which was published to great acclaim earlier this year.

Blurb

Imagine your doorbell rings in the middle of the night.
You open the door to the police.
With them is your husband’s eleven-year-old love child. A daughter you never knew he had.
Her mother has been found dead in their south London flat.
She has nowhere else to go.
WOULD YOU TAKE HER IN? Amazon

What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (November 14)

First Chapter
Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

This week my excerpts come from a book that has languished unread for far too long having been purchased way back in January 2014! The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans is a historical tale which promises delightful gowns, so seems to fit with my recent visit to Bath’s fashion museum.

Blurb

Alix Gower has a dream: to join the ranks of Coco Chanel to become a designer in the high-stakes world of Parisian haute couture. But Alix also has a secret: she supports her family by stealing designs to create bootlegs for the foreign market. A hidden sketchbook and two minutes inside Hermès is all she needs to create a perfect replica, to be whisked off to production in New York.

Then Alix is given her big break – a chance to finally realize her dream in one of the most prominent Parisian fashion houses – but at the price of copying the breakthrough Spring Collection.

Knowing this could be her only opportunity, Alix accepts the arrangement. But when a mystery from her past resurfaces and a chance meeting has her falling into the arms of a handsome English war reporter, Alix learns that the slightest misstep – or misplaced trust – could be all it takes for her life to begin falling apart at the seams. Goodreads

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Prologue

Alsace, Eastern France, 1903

The double crash that echoed through the timber-framed house killed one man and damned another. The first blow was metal against skull The second was the crack of the victim’s head against the corner of the stove.

Chapter One

Paris, 1937

Mathilda’s daughter emerged from the Continental Telephone Exchange wearing an ivy-green suit, the severity of which contrasted with her youth.
A tilted trilby and shoes of black glacé leather suggested a young lady of means, as did silk stockings accentuating slim calves and ankles. She carried a black handbag and wore matching gloves. As she went down Rue du Louvre at a fast clip, admiring looks met her – and more than one smile of invitation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m always torn when putting these posts together when they have a prologue about where to start but as this one has such an intriguing first sentence I decided to give you a taster before the delicious clothes descriptions – how fancy do black glacé leather shoes sound?

So what do you think? Would you keep reading or perhaps you’ve already read this one? Do share your thoughts in the comments box below.