Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress…or feel certain she should marry Tim? Then Charlotte discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new―shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed.” Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history―and its new bride―begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.
Charlotte Malone decides to take a breather from running her bridal shop one day to take a walk around a local estate sale, not intending to buy anything, just look and take her mind off her stresses. She's surprised to find herself greatly interested in an antique wooden trunk that appears to have it's lock welded shut. A mysterious man in a vibrant purple shirt appears as the auctioneer, somehow coaxing her to bid on the item though she has no use for it. Charlotte ends up winning the trunk, taking it home, and with the help of some friends manages to eventually get it open. Inside, she finds a wedding gown that clearly looks like it's from another era, though she can't quite place which one. Strangely, it also appears to not have any signs of aging, as if it was just completed only yesterday. Charlotte becomes increasingly fascinated with learning the provenance of the gown, her research leading her to the stories of three other women -- Emily from the year 1912, Mary Grace from the year 1939, and Hilary from 1968 -- who all wore this dress on their wedding day. Each woman brings a riveting piece of history to the story of the dress, stories that will come together to explain the dress's pull on Charlotte.
I expected a sweet, fluffy story going in but found myself pleasantly surprised to come to the last page and realize I really loved this tale! The different points of history are all fascinating and each character is unique and life-like. There are good-hearted characters to cheer for and wicked people to cut eyes at (figuratively, of course). I can't think of one character here, good or bad, that did not hold my interest til the end! And the mystery of the dress itself -- I had to know how all these stories tied together! There's also the cute couplings to enjoy -- the back and forth struggle between Charlotte and her man (not a bad struggle though -- more of a "man, it'll be great when they come around" kind of tension), even through their rough patches they had nice banter and sweet, honest moments. I think my favorite, though, was Mary Grace and her husband as they were portrayed as the old couple in the retirement home, still looking out for each other. Having known couples like that when I worked in those kinds of homes, it definitely brought some warm-fuzzies to my heart :-)
I liked that this story had the blend of sweet, mysterious and heart-tugging without getting over-the-top sappy. These characters just felt like straight-up good people you'd know or meet in your everyday life. That tiniest vein of magical realism -- with the mystery man in purple -- was a pretty cool touch to keep the pages turning as well!