The Dressmaker

Elizabeth Oberbeck, Author
Elizabeth Oberbeck, Author . Holt $23 (306p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8033-9
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In the rural French town of Senlis, mild-mannered, middle-aged tailor Claude Reynaud fashions wedding gowns, dresses and suits for Parisian women in the know; for the locals, he repairs torn seams, sews on buttons and alters hemlines. Claude's predictable life turns upside down when the charming parisienne Valentine de Verlay commissions him to make her wedding dress, and he falls in love with her. Claude's wife left him eight years ago (but, we learn early on, no divorce papers have been signed), and Valentine's fiancé, Victor, is a singularly unlikable, one-dimensional character (whose last name, of all things, is "Couturier"). Claude and Valentine couple early on, but, despite being in love with Claude, Valentine stays on track for the marriage to Victor. When Claude joins up with a major Paris designer to be closer to Valentine, former Cosmopolitan columnist Oberbeck cleverly portrays Claude's entrée into high fashion, but she makes a weak case for Claude's dislike of all the attention. An inexplicably tragic side plot involving the teenage girlfriend of one of Claude's nephews further derails the proceedings. Oberbeck successfully creates the intrigue one wants for a wedding gown designer who falls in love with his client and vice versa, but doesn't manage it all the way through to the principals' New York collision. (July)

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