New York dressmaker Lucy Scarpelli befriends socialite Rowena Langdon as she’s designing her summer wardrobe. Grateful for Lucy’s skill in creating fashions that hide her physical injury, Rowena invites Lucy to the family mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, encouraging the unusual friendship.
As the lives of three young women – and their unlikely suitors – become entangled in a web of secrets and sacrifice, will the season end with any of them finding true happiness?
During my review of Masquerade on the Good Reads site, I asked a couple of questions regarding what I thought were loose ends. One of those questions was, “What happened to the Italian family?” This book, set nine years after Masquerade, finally gives me the answer. When I signed up to review a free copy of the book from Bethany House I had no idea that this was the sequel and, to be honest, it stands fine on its own.
Although the main character is the eldest Scarpelli daughter, Lucia, a lot of the focus is on her younger sister, Sofia. When we last saw Sofia she was a cute child who took a liking to a fashionable hat. She’s now a teenager, and has all the moods a 15 year old can have. Most of the time she’s selfish and tactless, but she occasionally gives us rare glimpses of increasing maturity. She often knows how she should behave, but fails on the follow through. There’s also an occasion where she makes a seemingly mature decision only to have it all crash down around her. The title of this book implies suitor in the singular, but there are actually three of them. I would say Sofia’s suitor is the most unlikely of them all.
Ultimately, however, this is a novel about social class. Even though the United States was heralded as a place where anyone could become a success, class divisions existed. Families such as the Vanderbilt’s’ ruled the social scene both in New York City and in the summer resorts of Rhode Island. The servants in the book knew where they stood and resented any of their peers who elevated themselves socially, including Lucia who becomes friends with the daughter of one such family. The three romantic entanglements here all cross the social divide as the people involved look beyond name and status to actual character and, dare I say it, looks. Name and status does not automatically make one a stunningly attractive person. Sometimes, it can result in quite the opposite.
As with most love stories, this novel does give us the almost required happy ending. Sofia’s relationship is left hanging but she is only 15. She communicates with Edward – who thinks she makes him be a better person – but there’s still plenty of time for her to fall out of love or meet someone else. As with Masquerade, the final pages are dedicated to fashion plates and background information. The description of the Vanderbilt house, The Breakers, is vivid and based on fact. I looked online for information regarding the mansion and found some amazing photographs. The Great Hall, for example, is probably bigger than most people’s homes and yet this was a summer home for the family. It truly was the Gilded Age. In truth, I doubt someone of Lucia and Sofia’s status could have made the conversion from Italian seamstress to American nobility. But that’s why this is a beautiful work of fiction.
Publisher: Bethany House
Release Date: 11 May 2011