Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: Little Black Dress

By Melissa Amster

Have you ever worn a dress that just fit you perfectly and made you feel beautiful both inside and out? What if your dress could show you the future too? Would you still want to wear it? This is the question that's at the very heart of Susan McBride's latest novel, "Little Black Dress."

Evie has grown up in the shadow of her dynamic and beautiful younger sister, Annabelle (also known as Anna). Then Annabelle buys a little black dress from a gypsy and it turns her world, as well as Evie's, upside down. Years later, Evie has a stroke while wearing the dress. Her daughter, Antonia (also known as Toni), leaves her life in the city behind and returns to her hometown to keep watch over Evie and clean up the mess she has created since her father's death. While doing so, Antonia finds out new truths about her mother and the aunt she never met, as well as about herself, all thanks to the help of the little black dress.

After thoroughly enjoying "The Cougar Club" last year (see review), I was eagerly anticipating Ms. McBride's new novel. Not only was I not disappointed, but I liked it as much as her last novel, and perhaps even more! This story was engaging from beginning to end. It was easy to follow, thanks to Ms. McBride's psychic ability to pick up on my desire to have one character in first person and one in third person. I also love when books alternate between present and future stories and this one had a feel similar to "The Violets of March" by Sarah Jio, while also being original and clever. Like with "The Cougar Club," Toni was about 11 years older than me. However, she was still easy to relate to from any age. (Seeing that Evie was 11 years younger than me for most of the story, it worked in that direction, as well.) There was the suspension of disbelief factor in this novel, but I love how believable she made everything feel. There was a sense of eeriness from what the dress was able to do that even sent tingles up my spine! The dialogue was realistic and flowed nicely and the descriptions made me feel like I was in the same room as the characters in both time periods.

The main concern I had was about subject matter. It seems like a lot of books these days discuss fertility issues and this was no exception. I would put that warning label on the story for those readers who are sensitive about this topic. The story also had a level of predictability, but since it was about a dress showing women their future, it was bound to happen that way. I like what she does with the predictable factors and she still manages to toss in some surprises along the way. I also liked seeing how she got from the point of the visualization to the point of it coming true. There are two things I would have liked her to include in this novel: Anna's perspective and more of the history behind the dress itself. I would have enjoyed seeing what happened to Anna after she had her visualization and joining her on her adventures instead of hearing about them later on (and not in much detail). Also, once the dress was in the sisters' possession and working its magic, there weren't any answers as to why it possessed such unusual powers (fortunetelling not being the only perk). They had received a warning about it before buying it, but not much history behind such a warning. (There may have been one example, but it was fleeting.)

Overall, this was a wonderful story and I've been recommending it to everyone I know. I will continue to recommend it, as it is beautifully told and suspenseful at times. It has elements of a fairy tale, as well as of romantic fiction; enough to appeal to anyone who wants a truly entertaining story with a "comfort food" feel.

Thanks to Susan McBride for giving me an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

If you like this novel, you may also want to read:


Literary Chanteuse said...

I have been waiting for this one to be released!

SweetMelissa said...

I can't WAIT to read this!