I had really enjoyed The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz (Click for review) which told the story of one wedding dress spanning generations, and when I read the synopsis of The Wedding Veil (Amazon), it sounded similar enough so I thought I’d try it out. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy from NetGalley and Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
“Four women. One family heirloom. A secret connection that will change their lives—and history as they know it.
Present Day: Julia Baxter’s wedding veil, bequeathed to her great-grandmother by a mysterious woman on a train in the 1930s, has passed through generations of her family as a symbol of a happy marriage. But on the morning of her wedding day, something tells her that even the veil’s good luck isn’t enough to make her marriage last forever. Overwhelmed and panicked, she escapes to the Virgin Islands to clear her head. Meanwhile, her grandmother Babs is also feeling shaken. Still grieving the death of her beloved husband, she decides to move out of the house they once shared and into a retirement community. Though she hopes it’s a new beginning, she does not expect to run into an old flame, dredging up the same complicated emotions she felt a lifetime ago.
1914: Socialite Edith Vanderbilt is struggling to manage the luxurious Biltmore Estate after the untimely death of her cherished husband. With 250 rooms to oversee and an entire village dependent on her family to stay afloat, Edith is determined to uphold the Vanderbilt legacy—and prepare her free-spirited daughter Cornelia to inherit it—in spite of her family’s deteriorating financial situation. But Cornelia has dreams of her own. Asheville, North Carolina has always been her safe haven away from the prying eyes of the press, but as she explores more of the rapidly changing world around her, she’s torn between upholding tradition and pursuing the exciting future that lies beyond Biltmore’s gilded gates.”
Dual timelines are often used in the fiction I read. The Wedding Veil tells the story of four women, Edith and Cornelia, whose stories are centered from WWI through the Great Depression, and the contemporary stories of Julia and her grandmother, Babs. And I have to be honest; it took me a while to get into the book because the historical timelines are told in third person and the contemporary timelines are in first person narrative. However, I eventually settled in and was able to enjoy the book immensely.
I really couldn’t decide on whose timeline I liked the best, but I can tell you that I liked Julia’s journey the least. I had a hard time wrapping my head around how she totally upended her life for ten years for her ex-fiance’ and only came to her senses after a video of him and another woman dancing a little too closely was sent to her and members of the wedding party quite literally right before she is going to walk down the aisle to marry him. It is true that she was with her ex since they were teenagers so she knew of no other way for a relationship to go, but to put up with the cheating for ten years, to give in to him countless times, to give up on her dreams and run back to him was hard to relate to. Luckily, she gains a backbone, spends some time on her “honeymoon” trying to decide what to do with her life, then puts it into action.
I thought Cornelia’s storyline was interesting. That George Vanderbilt would actually will his estate to his only daughter was quite extraordinary in an age when women weren’t really allowed to inherit property. As was all the work involved to make Biltmore self-sustaining was immense. The setting of Biltmore, an estate that I’ve heard about but haven’t done a deep dive researching, was enlightening. The description of the estate throughout the flashbacks let me imagine how Biltmore and the surrounding village of Asheville, North Carolina, were in the days of WWI and beyond.
That’s one of the reasons I like good historical fiction–it gets me interested enough in a subject that I’ll probably do a deep dive into the Biltmore estate and it’s history. And find out more about Edith and Cornelia’s lives and how much of their story is true. Some of Cornelia’s story defies logic, but is also entirely plausible after all she went through in her young life.
.The Wedding Veil will be released to the general public March 29, 2022.
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