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The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger ⇉ Harlequin Romance Dabbles in Crime

Tuesday, February 14, 2017
I picked up this novel because of the mystery of what happens to the dressmakers. While I enjoyed contemplating what would happen next to Hannelore and Margaret, the romance and plot were disappointing. In this novel, you can expect plenty of Harlequin-esque drama and superficial relationships among the people of high society.


Interesting Mystery
The mystery of the missing dressmakers intrigued me. Conditions for women, much less working women, were poor in the past, and I was curious to see what happened to them. Some elements were predictable while others were a surprise (though the erratic pacing threw off the build up to the climactic reveal). I had to suspend disbelief with some of the plot happenings. In the end, however, I appreciate the balance that Jaeger finds between trying to fulfill romantic fantasies and portraying realistic conclusions.

The Culture Speaks for Itself

Jaeger didn't need to tell me what time period I was in. The culture spoke for itself. Macs, Apple earbuds, the Lexus of the modern era easily contrasted with the pocket watches and three-quarters sleeves of the 19th century. Such details bring life to the setting.

Gentlemanly Men
I did have to suspend disbelief with the romance. Rich, handsome young men who take interest in the working woman's life and end up being romantically involved with them...? That sounds like something straight out of a K-drama. I do have to give a nod to the gentlemanly men. They're a warm ray of sunlight in a market flooded with bad boys (whom I would be terrified to introduce to my mother)!

Positive Sibling Relationships
Y'all know me. I have to give a shout out to positive familial relations whenever I see them! In this case, the positive sibling relationships belong in the historical time period. The parents were drunks, MIA, or dead, but the siblings know how to look out for each other. I especially love the sensible Martin :)


Cookie-Cutter Characters
The characters were bland and underdeveloped. Especially given the fast-paced (and unbelievable) romance, it felt like they stepped straight out of a Harlequin romance novel. Plot happenings and character backgrounds threaten to tear the lovebirds apart, but love has a way of overcoming everything without the characters needing to attend counseling sessions or communicating further than "I love you" or "I forgive you." (Very, very unrealistic.)

Rollercoaster Execution
The story is slow to start and quick to end. I was tempted to drop the story in the first quarter. As I've developed a bad habit of not finishing my books, however, I decided to give this one a chance. The last quarter was fast-paced as the plot came together into a climactic ending (in the historical past); I found myself drawn into the story. That was pretty much the highlight of the story.

Like a rollercoaster, this novel had a few buildups that ended in one thrilling drop, and then it was over.

Lightning flashed . . . and she fell in love.
If your eyes rolled at that line, I'm afraid that was my reaction to the romance.

I liked the ending to Hannelore's romance with rich boy (that was the most believable element of their romance), but the letter at the end ruined it all for me. I don't want to discuss this further because of spoilers. If you've read this novel and would like to talk about it, however, feel free to send an email. I love talking with readers!


Readers that enjoy a Harlequin Romance with mystery and crime woven into the plot may enjoy this novel. If you're not a big romance reader—especially when they seem written to fulfill romantic fantasies that don't translate well into real life—then you'll want to pass this one over. While the mystery/crime aspect was interesting, it wasn't well executed (refer back to the rollercoaster analogy above). Pure mystery-crime novels will have more to offer for readers of that genre.


This 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 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?


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What's one of your favorite stories about an ancestor (or other historical figure)?

Publication Info
  • N/A
  • Kissing
  • Sex and arousal (explicit descriptions)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. All thoughts expressed are my personal honest opinions.

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