The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan
Three women (Cressida, Violet, and Grace) tell their stories of how a period of time helped them review what they wanted their purpose to be in life and how they got the courage to go after their dreams of love and adventure. Set in England during World War II these three women are thrust together and inspire each other. Cressida Westcott is a well known fashion designer of high fashion living in London and has a thriving design house. In one night the blitz destroys her personal home and her design studio, leaving her with nothing but the clothes she has on Cressida calls her nephew, who she hasn’t seen since he was a child, and asks to return to the family estate while she gets her affairs in order. Hugh Westcott, Cressida’s nephew and Violet’s older brother, allows his aunt to move back home and set up a design studio while she finds a place in London to rebuild her career. Violet Westcott is thrilled to finally meet her aunt who her father would not mention before he passed away. Violet at first is vapid and self absorbed and Cressida is rather put off by how shallow Violet comes off. Cressida reminds her niece and nephew that she became successful, has a wonderful career, and is happy because she did not listen to her brother, their father, on how you have a duty to tradition and must maintain traditional values and expectations. However, as she spends more time at home Cressida reconnects with old friends, including Ben, Grace’s father. When she realizes that the death of her fiancé in World War I does not mean she can never love again, she realizes how much she cares for Ben.
Violet, is forced to join the British Army but Hugh pulls some strings from his position in the War Office to make sure she can still live at home is assigned to be a driver at a base/local manner about a mile away. Prior to training Violet is set on marrying a Duke or Lord because that is what her father drilled into her. With the help of Cressida and the girls at basic training she realizes that she wants love and not just to be in a good life with a husband who doesn’t love her and who she doesn’t love. Violet surprises herself as she falls in love with an American solider, Lieutenant Landon McCauley, and marries him. Violet has found love and hopes that her adventures in Connecticut after the war is over will help her desire to become a photographer.
Grace Carlisle, the vicar’s daughter, is set to marry Lawrence but there is no love between the two. Lawrence, is another vicar, and proposed because Grace is such a good worker for the church and congregation. Grace’s heart belongs to Hugh Westcott as the two were very close when they were young but Hugh going off to boarding school ended their friendship. Hugh and Grace rekindle their friendship and Grace helps around the parish and spends time with Cressida learning how to design clothes and remake her mother’s wedding dress. Lottie, Grace’s best friend, helps her realize why love is important in a relationship once Lottie becomes engaged. Grace brings her mother’s wedding dress to the sewing circle hoping that the ladies can help mend the dress so she can have a white wedding. In exchange for their help Grace offers the dress to anyone in the circle who wants to wear it for their wedding. Grace ends her engagement and hopes that she can have the love like she did when she was young with Hugh.
With Grace, Violet, and Cressida all at the same circle the fates intertwine these three ladies and turn their lives upside down and for the better. The reviewer started reading this book, but when a road trip came up the audible book was used to continue so that the story wouldn’t be paused. The author does such a great job at bring each character to life and made the book so hard to put down that while I knew everyone would have a happy ending I still opted for the audio book so I could find out sooner instead of give up precious time between reading.
Character List/Book Summary: due to listening and reading some characters might be missing
Cressida Westcott: aunt to High and Violet, lost her fiance Jack in WWI, in one night lost her London home and design studio. Returns to her family home while her estate agent helps her get buildings for the design studio and home set up again. While in her family home she finds the ladies of the sewing circle and her family were missing from a great life and make her life even better.
Violet Westcott: upset that she doesn’t have a Duke or Lord to marry since they are all off at war or marrying women of lower classes. When she goes to basic training she aces mechanics and engineering. At first finds American GIs, especially Lt. Landon McCauley annoying. Training also makes her realize that she isn’t as special as her father claimed and the duty to only staying with your class means you miss out on friends and a happy life. Really helps organize the wedding dress exchange that the sewing circle sets up. After marrying McCauley she agrees to move to the USA after the war ends. Finds out that Grace’s mother’s wedding dress was her mother’s dress too and that her mother gave it to Grace’s mother so the vicar’s wife would have a white wedding.
Grace Carlisle: vicar’s daughter and parish helper, engaged to a man who only sees who she will help him as a vicar and possibly be able to help him advance in the church. Through her best friend, Lottie, and encouragement from Cressida Grace realizes she can be more than a parish worker and wants love and design clothes. Grace realizes that the love she had with Hugh when she was younger is what she wants in life and the courage to go after what she wants brings adventure and love into Grace’s life.
Lottie – Grace’s best friend, gets engaged to Lord Flynn whose estate is being used as a military base. Helps encourage Grace to have love and passion in her life.
Ben Carlisle – Grace’s father and an old friend of Cressida’s. Rekindles his friendship with Cressida and comes out of his shell and starts helping the parish more after the death of his wife. This is a relief to Grace, because he can help lighten the load of parish work.
Hugh Westcottt – Violet’s older brother, listened to his father about duty and obligation. Has been promised to marry a society lady since they were children, and plans to go through with the marriage to help keep the family estate. Learns from Grace how his father was out of touch with the locals and starts to help more in the local community and understand what the locals are going through during the war with rations and men away. Confesses to Grace that he did love her when they were younger.
Sewing Circle Ladies – between listening and reading I was not able to take notes to help distinguish a few of them apart they way they deserve. Trust me they are a unique group who will give you a smile if not a true laugh out loud with their comments and antics.