The New York Times bestselling author of Under the Southern Sky and the Peachtree Bluff series brings “her signature wit, charm, and heart” (Woman’s World) to this sweeping new novel following four women across generations, bound by a beautiful wedding veil and a connection to the famous Vanderbilt family.
Four women. One family heirloom. A secret connection that will change their lives—and history as they know it.
Present Day: Julia Baxter’s wedding veil, bequeathed to her great-grandmother by a mysterious woman on a train in the 1930s, has passed through generations of her family as a symbol of a happy marriage. But on the morning of her wedding day, something tells her that even the veil’s good luck isn’t enough to make her marriage last forever. Overwhelmed and panicked, she escapes to the Virgin Islands to clear her head. Meanwhile, her grandmother Babs is also feeling shaken. Still grieving the death of her beloved husband, she decides to move out of the house they once shared and into a retirement community. Though she hopes it’s a new beginning, she does not expect to run into an old flame, dredging up the same complicated emotions she felt a lifetime ago.
1914: Socialite Edith Vanderbilt is struggling to manage the luxurious Biltmore Estate after the untimely death of her cherished husband. With 250 rooms to oversee and an entire village dependent on her family to stay afloat, Edith is determined to uphold the Vanderbilt legacy—and prepare her free-spirited daughter Cornelia to inherit it—in spite of her family’s deteriorating financial situation. But Cornelia has dreams of her own. Asheville, North Carolina has always been her safe haven away from the prying eyes of the press, but as she explores more of the rapidly changing world around her, she’s torn between upholding tradition and pursuing the exciting future that lies beyond Biltmore’s gilded gates.
In the vein of Therese Anne Fowler’s A Well-Behaved Woman and Jennifer Robson’s The Gown, The Wedding Veil brings to vivid life a group of remarkable women forging their own paths—and explores the mystery of a national heirloom lost to time.
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|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)|
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Prologue: Magic: June 5, 1879
PROLOGUE Magic June 5, 1879
Six-year-old Edith Dresser’s skates moved heavily, as if she were rolling through sand, across the patterned wool rug in her mother Susan’s bedroom. She lived for moments like this, when she had her vivacious, beautiful mother all to herself while her three sisters continued their skating downstairs in the dining room. Usually, her mother’s lady’s maid would have helped Susan get ready for the party she was attending this evening, but she wasn’t feeling well. So instead, Edith stood—her skates making her taller—admiring the rows of frocks for every occasion in her mother’s closet.
“Do you think the pink for tonight, darling?” Susan asked. Edith tried to focus on her mother, but her child’s eyes wandered to the back corner of the narrow closet. “I love pink, Mama,” Edith said as she clomped ungracefully to a garment she knew well. With a tentative finger, she traced the lace on the edge of her favorite piece, the one she and her sisters loved to try on most: her mother’s wedding veil.
Susan turned and smiled, watching her daughter study one of her most prized possessions. In a burst of energy, she moved behind Edith, swept the long veil off its hanger, and motioned for Edith to follow her. In the light and opulence of her bedroom, Susan placed the cherished Juliet cap on her small daughter’s head, gently touching the rows of pearls at the bottom. She smiled.
“Just look at you, my girl,” Susan said as she arranged the lace-edged tulle around her daughter’s shoulders, the contrast great against her gray wool dress. Edith stood as still as one of the statues in the yard, holding her breath so she couldn’t possibly damage the veil.
Staring into the mirror, Edith felt transformed. It was still her reflection looking back at her, in her usual outfit with her favorite roller skates. But, somehow, she was completely different.
Susan bent down until her eyes locked with her daughter’s in the mirror. “One day,” she said, “when you are quite grown up and find a man you love very much, you will wear this veil just like I did when I married Daddy.”
Edith watched her own eyes go wide, imagining. Then she scrunched her nose. “But I want to stay with you, Mama.” Edith knew that, in other houses like hers, little girls were supposed to be seen and not heard. They weren’t allowed to roller skate inside and certainly weren’t permitted to play dress-up in their mother’s elegant clothes. Why would Edith ever want to leave a mother who let her keep a dozen pet turtles in the yard?
Susan laughed, moving in front of her daughter to adjust the veil again. She wrapped her in a hug and said, “No, Edi. You are going to find a wonderful man and be the most beautiful bride. Daddy will be there to walk you down the aisle, your sisters will stand beside you as your bridesmaids, and I will sniffle into my handkerchief and wipe my eyes because I will be so proud and happy.”
Edith was confused. “If you’re happy, why would you cry?”
“Because that’s what mothers do at their daughters’ weddings.”
Edith studied her mother, trying to think if she had ever seen her cry from happiness. She couldn’t remember a time, but, then again, Mama had a whole life that didn’t involve Edith, many hours that she would never see. And she figured that Mama liked living with Daddy, along with Edith and her sisters Susan, Pauline, and Natalie. So perhaps Edith would come to like having a family of her own as well. But she had conditions. Thinking of her favorite storybook, Cinderella, she said, “If I’m going to get married, I think I’d like to be a princess.”
Susan laughed delightedly. “Yes, yes. You, most certainly, will be a princess. You will live in a castle with many acres to roam to stretch your legs and plenty of fresh air to fill your lungs. You will have your own lady’s maid and a nursery full of lovely children. You will find a husband who will love you more than the stars, who will give you the earth and everything on it.”
This gave Edith a wonderful idea. “Can I marry Daddy, Mama?”
Susan smiled indulgently. “Well, I’m married to Daddy. But you will find a man just like Daddy, who is kind and handsome and loves you very much. And he will take care of you like Daddy takes care of me.”
Edith nodded. Becoming a bride suddenly seemed very, very important. She looked back at herself in the mirror, at how beautiful the veil was and, when she was wearing it, how beautiful she became. “Is this a magic wedding veil, Mama?” Edith asked.
Susan nodded enthusiastically. “Why yes, darling,” she whispered. “You have discovered the secret. Once you wear it on your wedding day, you will be happy forever.”
Edith, looking at herself one last time, wondered if she should share this life-changing news with her sisters. But no. That would ruin it somehow. She had a secret with her beloved mother, one to call her very own: The wedding veil was magic. And once she wore it, the fairy-tale life her mother had promised would be hers.