Monday, December 28, 2020

THE DRESS SHOP ON KING STREET by Ashley Clark, Reviewed by Winnie and Paula

Ashley Clark has written a beautifully intricate debut novel that is both heart-wrenching and full of hope. The gorgeous cover caught my eye and the description captured my interest. The Dress Shop on King Street is a time slip novel that moves between 1946 and the present day, with a few scenes in between. Set in Charleston, South Carolina and Alabama, it tells the story of Millie Middleton, the daughter of a Black mother and Italian father. She is a talented seamstress and dreams of having a dress shop of her own.

In the present day, Harper Dupree also wants to own a dress shop and design dresses. She especially loves vintage fashions, and having taken sewing lessons from Millie, she is an expert at restoring them. When Harper meets Peter Perkins who restores old buildings, she sees the chance to make her dreams as well as Millie’s come true.

“But if God gave you a dream, you’d better listen. You just remember that God knows the how and the why, though the when may be frustrating.”

The colorful, engaging characters come to life between the pages of this story. Clark has expertly meshed the stories and the people together, although I did have a bit of trouble keeping the timelines and places straight part of the time. Her careful historical research was obvious, and I enjoyed the tender message of holding on to our dreams and keeping hope alive. I’m looking forward to more stories from this talented author.
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from the author and publisher. All opinions are my own.

Absolutely fabulous debut by Ashley Clark. This story connects past and present in a captivating way.

Based on a real artifact , this story was obviously woven with love. Millie, Harper and Peter came to life and echoed my sentiments of preservation of old things, be they houses, clothes or memories.

“Sometimes life gives us those moments. Like the very first flutter of butterflies wings. Moments that are so profound and so purely beautiful, you try to capture them so you can come back to them later.”

From the first page, I was enthralled by the memories Ms. Clark evoked. I started sewing at age 9 on a Singer treadle machine. My mother was an Antique collector and dealer, so I grew up going to estate sales, auctions and consignment shops. My teen years were in the 60s. Although I lived in Northern Illinois, I remember the unrest of the times. The nostalgia made this story very real.

Harper and Millie share a dream of opening a dress shop. Will they realize their dreams and what will they learn along the way? At any rate, there is a transforming story to tell on their journey.

“But you cannot ignore the thing that keeps your soul alive because I believe God puts that sort of stuff in us for a reason. That He speaks to us through it. God is faithful, and when He calls you to something He will also give you the means , even if it doesn’t look as expected.”

This book is a beautiful treasure to be pondered over. I will certainly read the next book in the series as more of this story unfolds.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House. I was not required to give a favorable review.
Beyond 5 stars and a solid faith thread. All opinions are my own.* 

BackCover Blurb:
Harper Dupree has pinned all her hopes on a future in fashion design. But when it comes crashing down around her, she returns home to Fairhope, Alabama, and to Millie, the woman who first taught her how to sew. As Harper rethinks her own future, long-hidden secrets about Millie's past are brought to light.

In 1946, Millie Middleton--the daughter of an Italian man and a Black woman--boarded a train and left Charleston to keep half of her heritage hidden. She carried with her two heirloom buttons and the dream of owning a dress store. She never expected to meet a charming train jumper who changed her life forever . . . and led her yet again to a heartbreaking choice about which heritage would define her future.

Now, together, Harper and Millie return to Charleston to find the man who may hold the answers they seek . . . and a chance at the dress shop they've both dreamed of. But it's not until all appears lost that they see the unexpected ways to mend what frayed between the seams. 

Bethany House, December 2020
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