Book Review and Book Tour: A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen

Posted July 4, 2022 by WendyW in Book Review, bookblogger, Uncategorized / 40 Comments

A Dress of Violet Taffeta
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

by Tessa Arlen
Publication Date June 24, 2022
Published by Penguin
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Genres: Fiction / Biographical, Fiction / Historical / General, Fiction / Women
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Reading Challenges: 20 Books of Summer 2022

***I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***

A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of La Belle Époque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, who shattered the boundaries of fashion with her magnificently sensual and enchantingly unique designs.

Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, and texture in ways few people can begin to imagine. But is the male dominated world of haute couture, who would use her art for their own gain, ready for her?

When she is deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is left penniless with an aging mother and her five-year-old daughter to support. Desperate to survive, Lucy turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her creative designs and her remarkable eye for color to take her place in the fashion world--failure is not an option.

Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy's life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her fashion label Lucile, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucy will live on as a trailblazing and innovative fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn. This is her story.

A Dress of Violet Taffeta is a fictional account of the life of Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, and her rise to fame as a fashion icon. It’s a fabulous story of grit and determination.  

The story follows Lucy, from the betrayal of her first husband and subsequent divorce to her rise to fame as the owner of one of the finest fashion houses in London.  After Lucy’s husband deserts her, she is left to raise her daughter, Esme, with only one scullery maid, Celia for help running the house. Lucy must find a way to support them all, and with Celia’s help, she uses her talents as a seamstress and designer to start making and designing dresses for friends, family, and the high society of London.  Lucy has an eye for fabrics and fashion and her designs are unique and become coveted by high society immediately and her empire grows fast.  

Lucy’s life changes when she meets Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, Lucy is reluctant to have a relationship after her previous husband deserted her, but Cosmo is very persistent.  Later her life changes again when she embarks on a fateful trip to New York on the Titanic.  

I enjoyed this look inside the life of a strong, successful woman in a time when men dominated the fashion world in London.  She overcame a lot of obstacles and I enjoyed reading about her struggles and her eventual success.  I loved all the descriptions of the beautiful dresses, as well as how she creates them.  

I liked the alternating POVs between Lucy and her scullery maid Celia, who eventually becomes her business partner.  I learned a lot more about Lucy, by reading Celia’s chapters as she described her life working for Lucy.   

The author did a lot of research, and I appreciated her descriptions of Lucy’s journey on The Titanic and the aftermath of the disastrous sinking of the ship.  I liked the way she described the elegance of the Titanic as seen through Lucy’s eyes, and she made sure to highlight the differences between the separate class accommodations.  Make sure you read the author’s notes at the end of the book as the author describes her research.  

I highly recommend A Dress of Violet Taffeta to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I received a complimentary copy of this book.  The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

About Tessa Arlen

Tessa Arlen is the author of the critically acclaimed Lady Montfort mystery series—Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman was a finalist for the 2016 Agatha Award Best First Novel. She is also the author of Poppy Redfern: A Woman of World War II mystery series. And the author of the historical fictions; “In Royal Service to the Queen” and available July 5, 2022 “A Dress of Violet Taffeta.”

Tessa lives in the Southwest with her family and two corgis where she gardens in summer and writes in winter.

UK Cover:

Book Challenges:

A Dress of Violet Taffeta counts towards my 20 Books of Summer Challenge.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

40 responses to “Book Review and Book Tour: A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Wendy. Lucy certainly had grit. She was such a trailblazer for fashion and women entrepreneurs. Arlen did a fabulous job with the era, fashions, and characters. I am looking forward to her next novel.

  2. I’ve really enjoyed the mysteries I’ve read by Arlen and this sounds really good! I love historical fiction and this isn’t a story I’m very familiar with.

  3. Wonderful review, Wendy. I love the cover. I do enjoy historical fiction and things not dealing with the war are hard to come by.

  4. This sounds like a wonderful book. I love stories that follow strong successful women who are determined to beat the odds. I like that the author’s research shows in the book. Great review Wendy!

  5. This is not a book I’d normally even take a look at because the title and cover hint at a frivolous romance. BUT, after reading your review, I see it’s none of those things, and in fact it sounds SO interesting. I love some historical fiction that isn’t set in WWII for a change! I’m in.
    Terrie @ Bookshelf Journeys

  6. I’m going to read this in month end. This sounds well written and well researched. Amazing review, Wendy.

  7. This sounds fascinating and really well done Wendy. Certainly something I would enjoy. Wonderful review. This time I prefer the US cover

  8. Sounds fascinating. The only thing I know about Lucy Duff Gordon is what I learned about her watching the movie Titanic. ;D

    • She sure was a lot more than I ever thought she was. I didn’t realize she was in the movie Titanic. Now I’ll have to watch it again!

  9. I love the US cover so much. I’m definitely putting this on my TBR. It sounds so interesting and I love reading about the Titanic.

  10. I think the two different points of view would be very interesting. I don’t know if it matches up with history, but I like the idea of her former maid becoming a partner.

  11. Kim

    I always prefer reading historical novels when it’s clear the author has done their research.

  12. I enjoy historical fiction set outside of wartime and this one sounds well-researched and very interesting. I love that there is a dual POV. Wonderful review Wendy.