This period novel follows the story of Italian immigrant Lucy Scarpelli and her mother and sister, 3 women struggling to make ends meet in 1895 New York. The Scarpelli’s are seamstresses working in sweatshops and out of their small, dilapidated apartment when they are unexpectedly evicted because their building is being torn down. Desperate to help her family, Lucy sets out to find them a new place to live and happens upon new jobs for them as well. Her families luck begins to change and their lives take a sudden grandiose turn when they acquire a modest apartment above the dress shop of Madame Moreau.
Lucy has big dreams, and those dreams begin to take flight when she befriends Rowena Langdon, a socialite with a physical injury that hinders not only her confidence, but also her social standing. Lucy creates a wardrobe for her new friend that enhances her beauty, disguises her infirmity and establishes a bond between the two young women. When Rowena travels to Newport, she is determined to figure out a way to bring her new friend along, even if it means defying the social rules of the time.
Once in Newport, Lucy experiences many situations that make her uncomfortable in her social position. She begins to see that she is nothing more than a seamstress, and regrets leaving her family behind to “pretend” to be something she is not. In the midst of her self-doubt and realization that she may never be able to rise above the status that she was born into, Lucy meets Dante. Dante is everything that she has never allowed herself to desire, and she finds herself inexplicably in love.
Meanwhile, Rowena is struggling with her own self-doubt and pulls further away from the man that she is to be married to. She realizes that she is not in love with the man her parents have arranged for her to be betrothed to and that she is actually in love with another, a man below her social status and forbidden by her family.
As the two young women grow closer, their lives intertwine in more ways than one, until secrets and deceptions are exposed and confidences are betrayed. Will Lucy and Rowena ever be able to be with the ones that they love? Will their friendship survive disasters of envy, betrayal and social barriers? This novel is beautifully written, with characters full of life and emotion. Even if you are not particularly fond of period pieces, this novel’s story of love, friendship and determination shine through to make an enjoyable read.
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