Set in the eighteenth century, the reader is transported to Italy, to the world of Princess Caroline of Brunswick and our protagonists Emilia and Sarah.
The book design for this title is a return to the vintage style borders that other Betts novels have had and I admire that. Piatkus Books have done it again with an evocative cover and format that is easy to pick up and read, and it was very hard to put down! Putting her acknowledgements at the front is a huge deviation from the norm and very sensitive to her support team, so I was impressed with Charlotte for doing that.
The reader is introduced to Emilia and her mother Sarah in 1819 on their journey to Pesaro, Italy. They are nomads, not staying too long in once place, not getting comfortable or complacent, keeping a low profile making ends meet by being dressmakers. They never say goodbye and they never keep friends. Emilia has had enough. Now a young woman, she is unconvinced of the need to stay on the run from her violent father after 16 years of undisturbed freedom. And so our story begins with a familiar mother daughter rift.
Charlotte is fine tuned in the art of bringing to life historical eras with their colloquialisms. She is also adept at arousing the ocular and olfactory senses and this book is no different. Immersive, elegant, perfect on a sunny afternoon, The Dressmaker’s Secret will transport you. I found it difficult to put this book down as the secret unfolds and new directions are taken.
Unsure as to whether I would enjoy a story about the opulent Prince Regent and Princess Caroline of Brunswick as a backdrop, I entered this story with caution. In truth, the colour and contrasts brought vibrancy and depth to Emilia’s journey. Frustrating at times and locked down in the etiquette and proprieties of 19th century society, Emilia sweeps the reader through elegant homes and Balls and a myriad of finery, whilst wrestling with her conscience and her need to find out who she truly is. A truly exciting tale of coming of age, deceit, intrigue, the art world and self awakening.
Congratulations to Charlotte Betts for another exciting historic novel. With each novel she gets more on the mark of that heady mixture of entwining fact and fiction.