“I’ll read anything by Susan McBride.”
—Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels
“I’m madly in love with this full-of-surprises story about secrets, family ties—and one magical little black dress. One of my favorite novels of the year.”
—Melissa Senate, author of The Secret of Joy
“An enchanting escape into a magical world.”
—M.J. Rose, internationally bestselling author
Can there be magic in a Little Black Dress? Susan McBride, author of The Cougar Club and the Debutante Dropout mystery series, answers with a resounding, unequivocal, “Yes!” McBride’s mesmerizing tale of two sisters whose intertwined lives are torn apart by a remarkable dress that opens up doors to an inescapable future is an ingenious work of the imagination that recalls the novels of Claire Cook and Jill Kargman. A sometimes heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking look into two generations of women, this Little Black Dress is something every fan of quality contemporary women’s fiction will want to own.
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About the Author
Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Blue Blood and the Debutante Dropout Mysteries that include The Good Girl's Guide to Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night of the Living Deb, Too Pretty to Die, and Say Yes to the Death. She also writes the bestselling River Road Mysteries and has penned three women’s fiction titles: The Truth About Love and Lightning, Little Black Dress, and The Cougar Club. She chronicled her bout with breast cancer in the short memoir, In the Pink: How I Met the Perfect (Younger) Man, Survived Breast Cancer, and Found True Happiness After Forty. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and daughter.
Read an Excerpt
Little Black DressA Novel
By Susan McBride
William Morrow PaperbacksCopyright © 2011 Susan McBride
All right reserved.
I never meant to resurrect the dress. I had intended for it to
remain out of reach so there would be no more meddling.
But I awoke before dawn with tears in my eyes after another
strange dream about Anna, and I knew that I had to find it.
A bruised looking sky bled between half-drawn curtains as I
dragged myself from bed and padded down the hallway in my
nightgown and bare feet. I switched on the attic light and grabbed
the banister to climb, my knees creaking as sharply as the wood
beneath my heels. At the top of the stairs, I paused to catch my
breath and loudly sneezed.
I'd forgotten how dusty it was up there and how full of things
forgotten: discarded furniture, a steamer trunk stuffed with my
parents' belongings, and more boxes than I could count. It could
take me days to dig through all the detritus. I wished I had
listened to Bridget about getting my life sorted out months ago so
there would be far less clutter. The house was full of it now. Like
so much of the past, I found it harder to face than to ignore.
Mr. Ashton's been dead two years, Miss Evie, she'd said yesterday,
as if I needed reminding. Sometimes it still felt like my teeth had
all been freshly pulled, the ache was so raw. You can't keep avoiding
the world. It hasn't stopped spinning just because you hoped it
would. He isn't coming back any more than Toni will, not if you
don't give her something to come back to.
The remark had stung deeply, and I resented Bridget for saying
it. My husband might be dead, but Antonia was not. She might
want nothing to do with me now that she was all grown up, but I
was still here for her, and her roots were entrenched in the dirt of
Blue Hills, no matter that she fancied herself a city girl.
Oh, dearest Antonia!
The thought of her gone nearly made me weep. I had wanted
so desperately to keep her close, but she'd flown away as soon as
she was able, just like Anna. And it exhausted me knowing that,
no matter how hard I'd tried to do what was right, I couldn't
seem to hold on to what I loved most in the world. I had lived
seventy-one years and everyone closest to meMother, Daddy,
Jon, Anna, even Tonihad left me one way or another. Was it
any wonder I'd hidden away the dress and all the confusion it had
Until the damned dream that wouldn't let me be. I had to
know the truth. I had to see what was coming, and putting on the
dress was the only way.
Amidst the smell of dust and disuse, I inhaled a well
remembered scent. Lily of the valley tickled my nose, drawing
me forward. Picking my way carefully through the mess, I edged
toward the corner of the attic, and my gaze fell upon a faded floral
hatbox, tucked squarely under the eaves. Grunting, I pushed aside
a wicker chair and half a dozen cartons to make a path.
By the time I reached it, I was panting, my breaths ragged. I
rubbed damp palms on flannelled thighs before I lifted the lid.
Photographs fluttered to the floorboards as I drew the black shift
from within and held it up to the light.
The fabric came alive before my eyes. Silk that had seemed
dull and faded on first glance sparkled beneath the glow of the
bare bulb. My hands shook as I set the dress down long enough to
drop my nightgown 'round my feet. I heard the crackle of static as
I pulled it over my head and tugged it past my hips, smoothing it
over my thighs with a sigh of relief. It fit as well as it had when I'd
worn it to Jon's funeral; but, of course, I'd known that it would.
Even stowed away these past two years, the dress had not
suffered for lack of wear. I felt its energy flow through my skin, much
stronger than I remembered; perhaps because I had become so
much weaker since the last time I'd donned it.
"Ah!" I gasped as blood surged to my head, making me dizzy. I
sank to my knees on the planked boards, oblivious to the discomfort
and I pressed hands to my eyes as the vision flitted through
my mind like a moving picture, sharper even than memories.
The sweetness of lily of the valley became pervasive, enveloping
me as I glimpsed Anna, clear as day, older than the last time I'd
seen her, much older. Toni stood at her side, their faces alike, pale
with pain. How sad they were as they gazed upon a solitary figure,
shrouded in black, lying perfectly still on a flat bed. "Oh, Evie," I
heard Anna say through her tears. "Don't leave us. Please, don't go.
It's not supposed to end like this." I saw myself then, lying beneath
the sheet, eyes shut, perfectly still.
Dear God. Am I to die?
I rocked back on my heels, my cheeks damp and chin trembling,
and I thought of my dream of Anna, of my sister returning,
and Toni, too. Was it my death that would bring them together?
I shook my throbbing head. No, no, no. I wasn't ready to go, not
before I'd set things right with them both, until we'd all told the
Maybe the dress is wrong, I thought, even though I didn't believe
it. It had never been wrong before, only misconstrued. Could that
be what was happening? But what else could it be showing me?
Blood rushed to my ears in loud, crashing waves, and a horrible
pain shot through my skull. I buried my face in my hands, pressing
hard at my temples, willing it to stop. Then it was gone, and
I felt nothing, heard nothing, and the world went completely and
Excerpted from Little Black Dress by Susan McBride Copyright © 2011 by Susan McBride. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow Paperbacks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“With a deft hand and a sensitive heart, Susan McBride spins a magical tale. A bittersweet, Gothic past melds perfectly with a tender and revelatory present. Part mystery, part love story. Emotionally satisfying, LITTLE BLACK DRESS is an enchanting escape into a magical and wonderful world. A delight to read.”
“With sparkle and wit, Susan McBride crafts both a family saga of painful secrets and a modern story of a woman who thinks she’s got it all under control until everything she thought she knew blows apart. Little Black Dress is a beguiling story of fate, love, and magic.”
“Written with touching insight into family relationships and what we call home, The Little Black Dress is a lovely and entertaining journey into the magical side of things. I bet you’ll never look at your closet the same way again.”
“I’ll read anything by Susan McBride.”
“Susan McBride’s LITTLE BLACK DRESS sparkles with magic! It’s part love story, part mystery, part family saga, all wrapped together in the wonder of an amazing little dress that will leave you crying and cheering. I loved this book!”
“Little Black Dress is big on heart, secrets and magic. This enchanting novel is a book-shelf essential.”
“I’m madly in love with this full-of-surprises story about secrets, family tiesand one magical little black dress. One of my favorite novels of the year.”
“LITTLE BLACK DRESS is a delightful, emotional and thoroughly engaging exploration of the connections that bind women together and the magic that’s created when mothers, daughters and sisters learn to open their eyes and hearts to their truest desires.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This story is told in two distinctive parts from two unique points of view. You have Evie telling the life and times of her rocky relationship with her sister Anna. We follow this progression in the time frame of the 1950's and read the lives of these two sisters and how events and decisions made by one can direct the life of the other. While Evie is steady and calm there is Anna who wants to run away and live her life to the fullest anywhere but in the small town, they are stuck in. The other story is told from the perspective of Evie's daughter Antonia, a wedding planner trying to find her happily ever after while creating one for everyone else. Her life is not perfect but she has tried to make it good and living away from her mother has made it bearable or so she tells herself. Everyone is brought together when Evie has a stroke. The last person Toni is worried about is herself so she rushes home to find her mother holding on to find her way back. Toni discovers while staying in her mother's house the past that will not go away and the present that is knocking on the door, literally. All of these events, people, and happenings are brought together by a little black dress that changed everything from the moment of its purchase. When each of the women wear it they see visions of their lives and a chance to grab the happiness they each want but are afraid to obtain. Relationships are such a tight rope to walk regardless of whom they are with and when you throw in something that change the path you are walking will you take it or stay the course? You do not have to believe in magic or the power of a little black dress to like this book it stands alone on the characters. You may figure out details faster than they are written but this is more about the power of life and less about secrets and life.
Every woman deserves to have the perfect little black dress. McBrides' newest release is about a magical black dress, which enhances the figure of any and every woman's body who slips it on. But the magic of this special black dress doesn't stop there. Sisters Evelyn and Annabelle couldn't be any more different, but when they each slip on the magical black dress from the gypsy shop they both get a glimpse of their future. Antonia Ashton gets word her mother, Evie, has had a stroke and is in the hospital in a coma. Leaving her successful wedding coordinator business and boyfriend Greg behind in St. Louis she returns home to Blue Hills. Having not been back since her father's death two years earlier she begins to see how her mother's life was beginning to spiral out of control. As she begins digging into her mother's affairs she unearths questions about her mother's past and finds a mysterious little black dress at the heart of it all. The novel shifts chapters between Evie and her daughter, Antonia. Evie's stories are first person accounts from the past leading the reader to the present, while Antonia's story is what is currently going on and in third person. I loved going back and forth getting to know Evie in a way her daughter, Toni doesn't know her, while at the same time getting to see Toni realizing some her own mistakes and seeing her mother in a new light. I wasn't sure about the whole idea of a future seeing black dress, but it worked! This is a story about how three women respond when getting a glimpse, how it can change everything in a moment. More than that it's a story of family and sisters and the love they have for one another. It was heartwarming and beautifully written. I'd love to go on and on about this book, but I don't want to say too much and ruin the story! This was one of my favorite books I've read this summer. I am definitely recommending you go and buy a copy!
Well written, intriguing! I love when a story is told in present time but then is also told from the past. Loved the characters! Wonderful read :)
Two sisters and a daughter - or is it a niece? - and a magic dress. We have a mother, Evie, suffering a stroke, her daughter Toni coming home to care for her, and a missing aunt, Anna. It turns out that a certain magical black dress is at the root of all mysteries - and solutions. When you don the dress, it not only fits perfectly and in a flattering manner, regardless of your size and shape (which in and of itself it pure magic) but it gives you a glimpse of the future. Once you've glimpsed the future, you can't simply proceed along the path as planned. The books flips from Toni's (Antonia's) viewpoint to Evie's in flashback, done very skillfully. Romances are broken - or begun, based upon what the dress has revealed to its wearer. It's a moving look at a not-entirely-whole, not-entirely-broken family dynamic, full of secrets, dysfunction, and love. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone exploring sister-sister or mother-daughter dynamics.
This book is the second donated by Susan McBride for the Readathon for International Chick Lit Month event at Stonecrest Library. Synopsis: Evie knows that something is about to happen, but she doesn’t know what. She doesn’t have much time to make amends with the two most important people in her life Anna her sister and Toni her daughter. Evie puts on the dress to give her an answer on her future with Toni and Anna. Anna originally found the little black dress in a shop in St. Genevieve County. Anna’s discovery from the little black dress affects everyone. Evie can’t forgive for events that happened. Toni is completely ignorant of the dress and its power. Evie has kept the truth from her. What will she learn about the little black dress? Will Evie reveal the truth and make amends with the most precious people in her life? My Thoughts: I loved this book! Another great read! There is a wonderful plot that is unexpected. I kept turning the pages wanting to know what would happen next. I don’t think I could find anything that wasn’t great about this book. All I can say is bring on the next Susan McBride book! One aspect of this book is a family heirloom that is passed along from one generation to the next. For the Ashton family it is the little black dress. I am trying to think if there are any family heirlooms that I have. The only thing I can think of is the quilts my grandma passed along and some dishes. What family heirloom do you have that is passed along from prior generations? Would you consider anything magical with it’s own story?
Susan has done it again!! brought a smile to my face
Love the story!
A little black dress spills more than a little magic and mystery on three generations of wearers....Told in the alternating voices of 46-year-old Toni and 71-year-old Evie, this...well-told tale of a mother-daughter relationship is fraught with secrets, disappointment, and unspoken love. Adding to the friction is the disappearance of renegade aunt Anna, who first bought the mysterious little black dress from a gypsy, unleashing a wild chain of events after she ditches her fiancé and leaves Evie and their parents to follow the vision the devilish frock unfurls. Though Evie tries to shed the distressing dress, she falls under its trance as well, finding the love of her life and then the child of her dreams. Finally, Toni falls into the rabbit hole after trying the magic dress on for size and discovering her long-lost aunt, a cache of her mom's secrets, and just who and what she loves.... --Publishers Weekly (June, 2011)
Owner of Engagements by Antonia, Toni Ashton diligently works as a party planner who focuses mostly on weddings. She meets her boyfriend Greg McCallum for dinner hoping he asks her to marry him. Instead he points out she is late, ordered for them, and he gives her a key to his place so they can have a trial run. She is disappointed, but before she reacts, her cell phone rings; a Blue Hills Hospital nurse informs her that her mother Evie suffered a crippling stroke. Without a goodbye, Toni heads to her hometown of Blue Hills, Missouri for the first time since her dad died. Toni moves into the family house she grew up in and begins to organize her mom's affairs amidst the crammed home. Thinking her mom was a hoarder, Toni finds clues and truths about her mom and her maternal Aunt Anna, who vanished long before she was born back in the 1950s after the purchase of a Little Black Dress in which the siblings both put on and saw their respective futures. Little Black Dress is a whimsical drama that looks deeply at relationships especially broken ones between loving family members. The story line contains two subplots as readers follow Toni in the present and the two sisters five decades ago. The Eisenhower Era segue is especially fascinating as the siblings are polar opposites who will have the audience wondering what each saw. This engaging tale will leave the reader looking at their relationships especially the troubled ones as time is short to mend estrangements. Harriet Klausner