The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for anything Grace Kelly. After all, she is one of my favorite actresses, and one likes to believe in the fairy tale that an American girl can marry a prince and live happily ever after. The Grace Kelly Dress, I knew, was not about Grace specifically, but rather about the demand for wedding dresses styled just like hers following her 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco.

“In Paris, 1958, Grace Kelly’s royal wedding dress is still all the rage in fashion circles. Rose, a seamstress at a famous atelier, has just been entrusted with sewing another gown in its image. An orphan, she needs her job to survive. But when Rose finds herself in love with the bride’s handsome brother, she must decide what matters most: love or security.

Sixty years later, Rocky is thrilled to be marrying the love of her life. He truly is her perfect fit. But there’s just one problem: her family’s heirloom wedding dress isn’t. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother’s heart. What she doesn’t know is why her mother is so set on the dress—or about the shocking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she prepared to wear the dress herself. As the wedding day approaches, the mother-daughter pair will finally confront long-buried heartaches, and it might just be the dress that brings them closer than ever.”

The Grace Kelly Dress is really the story of three different women: Rose, the young woman who is in charge of making a dress styled like Grace Kelly’s for many clients in the French dress maker, Joanie, the daughter of the woman who wore a Grace Kelly-styled wedding dress and passes it down to her, and Rocky, Joanie’s daughter, who does not want to wear the dress at all. She’d rather wear her dad’s tuxedo.

I’m not sure whose story was supposed to be the most important, but I found myself most interested in Rose, the young dressmaker, an orphan who works hard just to keep a roof over her head. When her boss dies, she thinks she’ll be out on the street, until she’s let in on a secret: Madame’s death will be kept a secret so the shop can continue business. Rose is in charge of designing and creating these dresses because of infinite skill and dedication. The only other person in the shop that knows this secret is Madame’s nephew, who acts as sort of a butler in the fancy shop. Rose feels an attraction to one of her client’s betrothed but realizes it can go nowhere.

I felt less invested in Joanie’s story. She’s in college in 1982, engaged to a nice guy, still reeling from the death of her sister of a heart attack some months before. As Joanie gets to know more about her sister, she prepares for her wedding, taking her mother’s Grace Kelly-inspired gown and adding “Princess Diana” sleeves to make it her own and make the dress more fashionable. What she finds out about her sister’s death is shocking, and sends Joanie on a journey of self-discovery.

Rocky’s story is interesting. She’s ultra hip, her fashion choices include combat boots and a liberal sprinkling of tattoos on her arms. She’s super successful in the tech world, and is engaged to be married. Problem is, her mom, Joanie, wants her to wear the Grace Kelly dress. Rocky, most assuredly, does not want to wear it. I thought that Rocky’s story was the weakest of the three, although I did like the compromise she came up with at the end of the book.

The Grace Kelly Dress was a solid three and a half stars. If you like historical or contemporary fiction, you might enjoy this. You do not have to be a Grace Kelly fan in order to appreciate the relationships portrayed in this book.

This is the 20th Audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.

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