The Dressmaker's Dowry: A Novelby Meredith Jaeger
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
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 decision...one 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?
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Meet the Author
Meredith Jaeger was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the daughter of a Swiss father and an American mother. While working for a San Francisco start-up, Meredith fulfilled her dream of writing a novel, the result of which was The Dressmaker,s Dowry. Meredith lives in Alameda with her husband, their infant daughter, and their bulldog.
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THE DRESSMAKER'S DOWRY, by Meredith Jaeger, is an appealing and unique story of love, survival, and secrets. Set in San Francisco, it alternates between modern times and 1876. The story begins in the present day and is told in first person, past tense. Sarah Havensworth is a grad student trying to write a novel for her MFA thesis. She's stuck with her story about life in the late 19th century's Barbary Coast and hasn't written anything in several weeks. Not only does she feel like a fraud because she can't finish her book, she's reluctant to let her husband Hunter Havensworth know. While researching her novel, Sarah discovers an article in an 1876 local newspaper referring to the disappearance of two dressmakers. The story intrigues Sarah because a serial killer was in the area at the same time, and she wonders if there's any way to tell if the dressmakers were his victims. So she abandons her soulless novel to write the more compelling dressmakers' story. This portion is set in 1876 and told in the third person, past tense by Hannelore "Hanna" Schaeffer. She's an immigrant from Bavaria, speaks German and English fluently, and is the oldest of four children of a fat, alcoholic, and abusive father. She and her Irish immigrant friend, Margaret O'Brien, spend long hours sewing for an unpleasant woman and her wealthy customers. One night Margaret is supposed to watch Hanna's siblings but never arrives. Hanna vows to find Margaret and enlists her friend, real estate mogul Lucas Havensworth, to help her. Both Sarah and Hanna are survivors. They've lived through horrible situations and experienced bullying, deprivation and self-doubt. Though they each find love, they feel they don't deserve it and try to distance themselves from their partners. Sarah and Hanna have secrets too. Deep ones, that if discovered, could make their lives miserable. As a history and preservation professional, I'm drawn to the research Sarah conducts to gather information for her story. The author uses this info to capture the disparity in living conditions between the wealthy citizens of late 19th century San Francisco and the poor immigrant populations living in unsafe and squalid areas of the city. And her portrayal of how the upper classes treated the other levels of society is reflected in both Sara's time and in 1876. Pros: The story is definitely unique and well thought out. The plot and subplots interweave fairly well, and the characters are multidimensional and extremely interesting. Cons: The novel could have been shorter--some passages are a little too long without adding to the story. In many places, the length of the sentences are similar, resulting in a somewhat stilted reading rhythm. Final Thoughts: THE DRESSMAKER'S DOWRY a good book for readers who like mysteries and character-driven stories and for people who like a bit of history sprinkled through their fiction. Though it's in the contemporary women genre, I would've like to read in the fifth grade (when I read GONE WITH THE WIND), so it's suitable for teenagers too. If You Like This, You Might Like: THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN and WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND by Ellen Marie Wiseman, INTO THE WATER by Paula Hawkins, HER EVERY FEAR by Peter Swanson, THE ISLAND HOUSE by Nancy Thayer, INHERITING EDITH by Zoe Fishman * Read my other reviews on the Blue Moon Mystery Saloon blog. ** An e-galley was provided by William Morrow/HarpersCollin and Edelweiss for an honest review.
Sarah Havensworth, age 30, and her husband, Hunter, are at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco attending a fancy charity event hosted by Sarah’s mother-in-law, Gwyneth. Sarah does not care for mingling with large crowds of people but when Gwyneth asks for her help with these charity events, she knows she cannot refuse. Sarah’s master’s thesis is due soon. It consists of a novel she hasn’t finished writing due to writer’s block. She is more interested in the history of San Francisco and has written many well-received articles along that line. When she searches for stories of old San Francisco, she discovers one about two missing dressmakers in the late 19th century. The girls were thought to have been murdered. Thus begins Sarah's story. Hannalore Schaffer - San Francisco - 1876 Hanna and her siblings are at the mercy of their drunken father. He takes what little money they earn and then beats them. Often, Hanna will go hungry so her siblings can eat. Hanna works as a seamstress at a tailor’s shop and hides some of the money she makes under a floorboard at home. She hopes to save enough to run away with her siblings. Margaret O’Brien works with Hanna and is in a similar situation having the responsibility for the care of her many siblings. One day, two gentlemen come into the shop for repairs to some clothes. Their names are Lucas Havensworth and his cousin, Robert. Lucas is very kind to the girls but Robert is arrogant with them. One Sunday afternoon, Margaret and Hanna meet to enjoy a few hours walking around San Francisco. There, they see Lucas and Robert who stop and talk to them. As the two men prepare to depart in a carriage, a drunk man accosts Hanna and Margaret, but Lucas intervenes and punches the man. The man becomes very angry and swears he will kill the girls one day. The story switches back and forth from 1876 to present day San Francisco. We see the very desperate way many people in the city lived and how they struggled. We also see the enormous amount of drinking and opium places and the people addicted to them. As Sarah delves further into researching what happened to the girls, she finds she being threatened by someone who doesn’t want her to find out the truth. In addition, she is hiding something very awful from her own past. For some reason, this book just didn’t grab me as being realistic. I’m not sure I can say that I would care to recommend the book. I believe this is the author’s first novel so I look forward to reading what she writes next as I think every author needs second chances. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley and Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Intriguing, thought-provoking and heartwarming! This story is told from two different perspectives. One is that of Sarah, a young woman who stumbles upon an unsolved mystery from the 1870s while working on her thesis. And the other is Hanna, a young woman struggling to survive and raise her siblings in a time when women had no rights and few options. It is, ultimately, a story about loneliness, loss, injustice, determination, strength, tragedy, guilt, and love. The writing is smooth. The characters are strong, multi-layered, and fascinating. And the multiple plots quickly unravel into a engrossing mystery that not only manages to intertwine all the subplots, but also ends with a little surprise. Overall this is a wonderful debut novel and I look forward to reading more from Jaeger in the future.