Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Blog Tour and Book Review: A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen

Pages: 352
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: July 5, 2022
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: In Royal Service to the Queen
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of Belle Epoque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, a woman determined to shatter the boundaries of the fashion world and support herself and her young daughter with her magnificent designs. Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, fabric, and texture in ways few other people do. But is the world ready for her? A world dominated by men who would try to control her and use her art for their own gain? After being deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is desperate to survive. She turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her courageous innovations in Belle Époque fashion to support her own little girl. Lucile knows it is an uphill battle, and a single woman is not supposed to succeed on her own, but she refuses to give up. She will claim her place in the fashion world; failure simply is not an option. Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy’s life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her career, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucile will live on as a trailblazing and fearless fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn. This is her story. "


Lucy is a divorced woman in 19th century Britain. This is unheard of, especially amongst her peers. She is in a tough spot, because she has to not only rebuild her life, but also support her young daughter. Lucy turns to dressmaking and designing, which was always something she has excelled in. Thankfully, she has her mother and sister to support in in the times that she needs it the most, but overall, Lucy is carving out an independent life for herself.  Along with the help of her maid, Celia, they start designing beautiful dresses with fabrics that are lush and catch the light. Quickly, her dresses become the talk of the town. Before Lucy knows it, she has launched Lucile Ltd, which attracts high end buyers.  To top it off, Lucy marries again and becomes Lady Duff Gordon. Obviously, things are better than ever for her. That is until she boards the Titanic, for what she thought was going to be a nice trip between Europe and the United States.  Tessa Arlen's historical novel, A Dress of Violet Taffeta, highlights the extraordinary life of Lady Duff Gordon, a woman truly before her time.  

Lucy could have given up when her wealthy husband left her for a dancer, (yes, a dancer!), but she didn't. Instead she literally rose from the ashes to create something great. She felt she had no choice as she had to support her daughter, so once she gained her independence, she created a new life for herself along with a career. It's a life filled with color, designs, and gorgeous fabrics.  Before she knows it, everyone is vying to have a dress designed by Lucy.  Thankfully, she has the help of her seamstress/ maid, Celia, and before she knows it Lucile Ltd. is employing a ton of workers.  I really liked Lucy, as I like a good underdog story, and she deserves all the success in her life. I liked how she transformed her life after a setback and now she is a historical fashion icon. Also, I am glad she gave love a second chance and married Cosmo as I really enjoyed their relationship in A Dress of Violet Taffeta.  Everyone deserves another chance at love, right? 

Each chapter alternated between Lucy's point of view and Celia's which was a nice touch as Celia brought a different perspective.  Her support and friendship with Lucy was one of my favorite aspects of the novel.  Just like Lucy, she was someone who was destined for so much more than just a house maid.

A Dress of Violet Taffeta is a quiet sort of comforting novel until Lucy and company boarded the Titanic that fateful and freezing night in 1912.  I don't want to give too much away, but I was worried how things might turn out, especially for Celia. 

Arlen described the time period very well and fans of the Gilded Age will especially enjoy A Dress of Violet Taffeta. I also recommend the book to fans of fashion as well as readers who appreciate stories about real-life women who lived extraordinary lives.  

So, are you a fan of Tessa Arlen? Is A Dress of Violet Taffeta on your TBR list? Do you enjoy novels about fashion or about real-life women? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.




  1. I know her best from stories about the Titanic, so I'm definitely interested in learning more about her!

    1. I had no clue she was aboard the Titanic, so that was a surprise! She led an interesting life for sure! Thanks for visiting, Angela!

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Christina. I enjoyed your detailed review. Lucy was such a trailblazer for fashion and women entrepreneurs. Arlen did a fabulous job with the era, fashions, and characters. I am looking forward to her next novel.


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