Book Review: The Dressmaker*s Dowry by Meredith Jaeger

Title:  The Dressmaker's Dowry
Authors: Meredith Jaeger
Publisher: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
Release Date:  February 7, 2017 
Genre: Historical / Contemporary Fiction - Dual Timeline

For readers of Lucinda Riley, Sarah Jio, or Susan Meissner, this gripping historical debut novel tells the story of two women: one, an immigrant seamstress who disappears from San Francisco’s gritty streets in 1876, and the other, a young woman in present day who must delve into the secrets of her husband’s wealthy family only to discover that she and the missing dressmaker might be connected in unexpected ways.

An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom...

San Francisco: 1876

Immigrant dressmakers Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret O'Brien struggle to provide food for their siblings, while mending delicate clothing for the city's most affluent ladies. When wealthy Lucas Havensworth enters the shop, Hanna's future is altered forever. With Margaret's encouragement and the power of a borrowed green dress, Hanna dares to see herself as worthy of him. Then Margaret disappears, and Hanna turns to Lucas. Braving the gritty streets of the Barbary Coast and daring to enter the mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stumbles upon Margaret’s fate, forcing her to make a devastating that will echo through the generations.

San Francisco: Present Day

In her elegant Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Sarah Havensworth struggles to complete the novel she quit her job for. Afraid to tell her husband of her writer’s block, Sarah is also hiding a darker secret—one that has haunted her for 14 years. Then a news headline from 1876 sparks inspiration: Missing Dressmakers Believed to be Murdered. Compelled to discover what happened to Hannelore and Margaret, Sarah returns to her roots as a journalist. Will her beautiful heirloom engagement ring uncover a connection to Hanna Schaeffer?

I must say I was intrigued by The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger. It mixes in historical elements with suspense, and a little behind the scenes of an author's research. So for this booknerd, it was definitely a decent read, and cover does catch my eye.  That being said, I was disappointed on several fronts. Sarah's story was not at all entertaining. True, her secret was devastating, but the reasons behind her anxiety and how her husband never delve deeper into her issues, was surprising. I think in terms of Sarah, her personal character development was lacking.  Then you turn the other coin, and thought how great Hanna's story was. How it all came together and the connection that tied into modern day Sarah, was not a bad read at all. It was almost like half the book wasn't even necessary, but to tie into the modern day connection, and that wasn't entirely necessary either. It did add a different element, including a targeted suspense, but as I said before, I could've done without.

The historical aspect of this story really had me wrapped in, from the description of San Francisco, a city I'm very familiar with, and how it was in 1876 to the fashion sense. It was a good part of what made The Dressmaker's Dowry work. It worked so well that I honestly didn't think the intimate scene needs to be as descriptive as it was. Throughout, I felt the author's choice of words lyrical and made that aspect flowed nicely - and then wham! In come the need to add in details of what can easily be written in a more imaginatively discreet way, which would fit the rest of the story more. 

So in all, I'm a little torn, but would I still recommend it? If you're a fan of historical mysteries, yes.

For my clean readers, please note there are descriptive intimacy in this book. 

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the author/publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and have not been compensated for this. This is my honest opinion.

For my review policy, please see my Disclosure page.



Meredith is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. She was inspired to write The Dressmaker's Dowry by her own engagement ring, which is an heirloom from 1903. She completed the novel while working for a San Francisco startup.

The Dressmaker's Dowry has been called "deliciously satisfying" and "impossible to put down" by New York Times bestselling author Lori Nelson Spielman and "A compelling debut novel that sent me racing to its final, revealing pages" by New York Times bestselling author Kristina McMorris.

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