Synopsis from Good Reads:
Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.
Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.
I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.
There is actually a lot more going on in this book than the synopsis suggests. The heart of the story centers at Etta’s dress shop, where she can magically enhance her couture dresses to help women accomplish their hopes and dreams. Her granddaughter Cora is a scientist and has little interest in dresses and love. Walt, who runs the book store next to Etta’s shop and moonlights at a local radio station reading books on air, has been in love with Cora almost all his life. Etta decides to work her magic on Walt so he can confess his love to Cora, but since Cora hasn’t received the same magic, it does not go well.
In addition to these three main characters, the book also focuses on Walt’s boss at the radio station, Dylan, Walt’s new girlfriend Milly, a priest named Sebastian who Walt sees for confession, despite not being catholic, Etta’s former lover from 50 years ago, police detective Henry who is investigating the 20 year old case of Cora’s parents death, and his ex-wife Francesca. There are a lot of loosely connected threads that binds them altogether. While it could be difficult to keep up with all the characters and their storylines, I think Van Praag pulls it off.
Though she’s the main character, I didn’t really care for Cora. She had completely repressed memories of her parents and closed off her heart until Etta’s sewing magic helps her remember the past and start to notice Walt. I found her un-relatable and it wasn’t really until the very end of the book that I began to find her at all likable. However, I did like her grandmother Etta, and Henry, the detective. Though I didn’t at first the appreciate the extra storyline involving Henry, he ended up being my favorite part of the book.
Overall, I mostly enjoyed The Dress Shop of Dreams. It has a unique concept with a wide variety of characters, though I wished some of them had been a little more developed. I felt the multiple storylines worked, having a bit of a Love Actually vibe. At times it didn’t always hold my attention, but I think fans of contemporary and magic would enjoy it.
Rating (out of 5):
Overall Rating: 3.125 Stars