Writing an engaging historical fiction novel with dual timelines is not easy. I consider Sarah McCoy, Christina Baker Kline, and Ellen Marie Wiseman to be experts at it. And now Meredith Jaeger can join their ranks. Considering The Dressnaker’s Dowry is a debut novel, that is high praise.
This novel tells the story of dressmakers Hannelore Schaefer and Margaret O’Brien, both struggling to survive their fathers’ lifestyles and provide food for their siblings. When Margaret fails to show up for work one morning, Hanna decides to take it upon herself to find out what happened with her new friend Lucas’ help. As they set upon the Barbary Coast looking for answers, they come face to face with debauchery and evil.
In the present, MFA student Sarah Havensworth discovers a news article from 1876 about these two dressmakers and makes it her mission to find out their fate. In doing so, secrets from her past bubble to the surface and she discovers not everyone in her life may be telling the truth.
As I read this, I couldn’t wait to get back to the historical section, which proves to me that the mystery was compelling. The present kept it moving forward as the reader made discoveries along with the characters.
Any reader who enjoys a good mystery will want to pick up this novel. And historical fiction fans will be thrilled at learning more about San Francisco during the 19th century, especially the antics found along the Barbary Coast.
I am eager to see what Meredith Jaeger writes next. If this book is any indication, I know it will be a bestseller.
Thanks to Harper Collins for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
About the author:
Meredith is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. She was inspired to write The Dressmaker’s Dowry by her own engagement ring, which is an heirloom from 1903.
Like the character Hannelore Schaeffer, Meredith is also the daughter of a European immigrant, who moved to California in search of a better life.
Meredith finds the urban immigrant experience a rich part of the fabric of American history, and is drawn to the lives of working-class Victorians.
She loves to wander around the Jackson Square neighborhood of San Francisco on her lunch hour, looking at the buildings which used to be dance halls, saloons, and brothels.
No matter how many startups move to San Francisco, its storied past will never be erased.