Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.
Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…
250 Years Later…
When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can't tell what is real and what is imaginary.
As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and its past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Publisher: Graydon House
Goodreads Rating: 3.64
Why I Chose This Book
What I found unique about this story is that it is centered around one dress. What is the mystery of this dress and how does it connect the two stories? I haven’t seen too many stories like this, so I definitely wanted to read and review this one.
First Initial Thoughts
There are two time periods in this book. I found it interesting that this book was set right as the American Revolution started against the colonies and the British. However, no war was actually mentioned but I am not sure how much England was affected at this time.
Isabella is a married woman in the elite society. She is married to a horrible man who abuses her. One day her husband gifts her this beautiful golden gown. After an event she wants to destroy it and sends her maid, Constance to destroy it. But some how it still survives. I really liked Constance her maid - she was there for Isabella when her husband was cruel. During this time - it was hush hush when it came to domestic violence. I found it quite sad.
Set in the modern time we meet Fenella. We first meet her when she is 14 and is on a trip to a historic home in London. When she was younger she had an impulse to steal- little things here and there. There she sees the golden gown. She steals the gown and leaves the home. When she comes home she stashes it away because of the odd feeling it gives her.
Then the story flashes ahead to 10 years later when she is in her mid twenties and divorced. She is a survivor of domestic violence. I loved how Nicola brought us attention to how Fenella acted in daily life. Afraid, lonely, suspicious, etc. This is very common for those that are victims of domestic violence. They often think that their ex partner is still out there to get them. And they also have a hard time trusting others again.
I love any story set in England. It’s one of my favorite settings for a book. And this book delivers. Nicola immerses you into both time periods so well and seamlessly goes back and forth in time. This book definitely had that eery feeling - and almost a feeling of confusion when either Isabella or Fenella was wearing the gown. Nicola definitely knows how to write a scene and make you feel like you are there right along with the characters.
The two woman in this story were so similar in their situation. Isabella and Fenella both had to deal with cruel husbands. However, we could see the differences as Fenella could get out of the marriage and Isabella had no choice. Isabella was stuck in the marriage and really only had Constance to lean on.
What really made this book was the characters. I absolutely adored Isabella. I liked Fenella but I felt more connected to Isabella. Nicola did such a great job in character development. As you all know good character development is on my top 5 must have in a book. I did find that the story was a little slow but if not for the characters I think I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.
This book was quite chilling and suspenseful. I noticed there was a supernatural element throughout the book. Specifically the gown was the main supernatural piece. it wasn’t too much though (not like a horror movie) and found it interesting how the gown connected the two woman. Secretes, betrayal, murder, deceit, and such more were found within the pages of this book. I really enjoyed reading this story and reading how it developed over the pages.
The only question I have, is how did the gown survive all these 200+ years? Nicola made it seem like it was in pristine condition.
Would I Recommend?
Yes and no. There are supernatural elements to this story - so for those that don’t particularly like that may want to pass on this one.
About Nicola Cornick
USA Today bestselling author Nicola Cornick has written over 40 historical romances and now writes Gothic time slip for HQ and Graydon House.
Nicola’s writing is inspired by her love of history and was fostered by a wonderful history teacher and by her grandmother, whose collection of historical romantic fiction fed Nicola’s addiction from an early age. She studied in London and Oxford and works as a guide and historian in a 17th century house as well as acting as a historical adviser for TV and radio. Publisher’s Weekly have described her as a rising star and her books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award and for the Romance Writers of America RITA Awards.
Nicola lives near Oxford with her husband and dog. When she isn’t writing she enjoys long walks in the countryside, singing in a choir and volunteering as a puppy walker for Guide Dogs.
Connect with Nicola
Note: I was sent a copy of this book to review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.