A beautifully written tender love story about three women each a generation apart, one wedding dress and their stories of how they ended up with this iconic Grace Kelly wedding dress.
Rose is a timid French seamstress who reluctantly agrees to make a wedding dress for a well-to-do woman whose only request is that it resemble the wedding dress of Grace Kelly. Very young and naive, as Rose creates the dress she begins to develop feelings for the woman’s brother who himself is getting ready to wed. As the two grow closer, Rose is uneasy about finishing the design of the dress.
Joan is in college during the 1980’s. She is in a sorority and enjoys the late night parties and the camaraderie of her sisters. When she becomes engaged, she is excited at the thought that the now will be able to wear the Grace Kelly dress. But what happens next sets off a chain of events which will change her life forever.
In the year 2020, Rachel, also known as “Rocky” who owns her own gaming business, becomes engaged. To the excitement of her mother, the Grace Kelly dress becomes hers to wear. But, unfortunately, Rocky does not care for the dress. Never has and never will. She also does not have the heart to tell her mother knowing it will devastate her. As the wedding nears, her anxiety about the dress becomes an obsession. How can she destroy her mother like this? What is wrong with her? What should she do?
As we learn how these three women’s lives are intertwined by a wedding dress, by their love and by their struggles, how they are able to endure hardships by their strength and each other so that their future generations will know the story of the Grace Kelly dress.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris—and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love.
Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly—look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security and of course, the dress.
Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.
As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brenda Janowitz is the author of five novels, including The Dinner Party and Recipe for a Happy Life. She is the Books Correspondent for PopSugar. Brenda’s work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Salon, Redbook, and the New York Post. She lives in New York.
Author website: http://www.brendajanowitz.com/
Q&A with Brenda Janowitz
Q: You write that you’ve always loved wedding dresses. What fascinated you about Grace Kelly’s dress in particular, and how did you come up with the idea for this novel?
A: Ever since I first laid eyes on this iconic garment, I’ve been in love. To me, Grace Kelly’s wedding gown is the ultimate dress. Beautiful, elegant, and refined– what more could any bride want?
My agent sent me an article from The Today Show about a wedding dress that had been passed down through eleven generations. The moment I heard the story, I knew that I had the idea for my next novel.
Once I decided to write about a wedding gown, there was only one thing I envisioned: Grace Kelly on her wedding day. So, when it came time to describe what this heirloom dress looked like, I found myself describing Grace Kelly’s gown– the lace sleeves, the cummerbund, the full skirt. I quickly realized that the characters in the book should be as enamored of this design as me, and The Grace Kelly Dress was born!
Q: You alternate between three characters’ stories. Did you focus more on one before turning to the others, or did you write the novel in the order in which it appears?
A: I like to write in a very straightforward manner, and that usually means writing each chapter in order, from beginning to end. So, I approached this book in this same way, at first.
But then, I realized that in order to make each story have the meaningful arc I was looking for, I’d need to focus on one story at a time. So, I broke the book apart into three different documents, and worked on one timeline at a time. This enabled me to fully immerse myself in each protagonist’s life, as well as the time period I was exploring.
Once I’d completed all three timelines, the real work began. I wove the book back together, and that was when the book took its true form, as I made sure that the different timelines all spoke to each other in a meaningful way. It certainly made the book take longer to write, but I think that by working on each timeline separately, I was able to do the individual stories justice.
Q: Tell us a little about your story and the story world you’ve created.
A: The Grace Kelly Dress is the story of three generations of women, and the wedding dress that binds them together. It’s a story about love, friendship, and family, and it’s entirely different from anything I’ve ever written before. I hope that readers will join me on this journey, and come to love these women as I do.
Q: Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
A: When my agent sent me a clip from The Today Show about a wedding dress that had been passed down through eleven generations of a family, I knew that I had the idea for my next book. It had everything I love to write about in one place– multiple generations, a wedding dress, and lots of room for friction. The image of a wedding gown is one that is so incredibly powerful to me. The way one chooses to dress for her wedding day says so much about that person, and how she wants to present herself to the world.
Q: The book is set in the New York area and in Paris. How important is setting to you in your writing?
A: Setting is so incredibly important! Where a character lives and how she interacts with her environment says so much about who she is. Rocky, our protagonist in 2020, lives and works in Brooklyn, and it says as much about who she is as the tattoos she proudly wears all over her body. Joanie, in 1982, lives a sheltered life on Long Island, but when she goes into New York City, she finds a world much larger than the one she was living. And Rose, in 1958, is in Paris, but as a poor orphan, lives a different type of sheltered life, working in a highly regarded atelier during the day, and doing not much else.
Q: What kind of research did you do for this book, and did you learn anything especially surprising?
A: I’ve never written in a timeline other than the present, so there was a ton of research to be done! I had to research the two different time periods, 1982 and 1958. Even an innocuous detail like the brand of watch that a character is wearing can throw a reader out of the narrative if the author hasn’t gotten it just right.
The most enjoyable research I did was about Grace Kelly herself, and, of course, her iconic gown. I read Kristina Haugland’s incredible book, Grace Kelly: Icon of Style to Royal Bride, and then had the opportunity to speak with her as well. I loved learning every detail I could about this beloved dress, but by far the most interesting thing I learned was this: Grace Kelly’s gown consisted of four separate parts, each of which needed to be put on separately. What a wonderful secret for a bride to have on her wedding day!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’ve loved writing about an heirloom item and the family that owns it, so I’m doing it again! I’ll be focusing on another family and another heirloom that has been passed down. Heirlooms are so incredibly important to me– I wear one of my Grandma Dorothy’s rings every day, and I love having a piece of her with me as I go through my day to day.
Q: How did you get the idea for this novel?
A: The idea came to me when my agent sent me a clip from The Today Show about a wedding dress that had been passed down through eleven generations. I couldn’t get over how incredibly special that was, and I immediately started to think about what it would mean for a family to have an item like that. How would each woman change the dress to fit her personality? How would the time she was living in have an effect on those choices? And what if one woman didn’t want the dress?
Q: Is Grace Kelly one of your favorite actresses? What is your favorite Grace Kelly role?
A: YES! Grace Kelly, to me, is the ultimate Hollywood story: beautiful, talented, and then she married a prince. I love all of Grace Kelly’s films, but I particularly adore To Catch a Thief. It’s so romantic and flirty, and it’s got Cary Grant.
Q: What is one of the biggest challenges you have in a story like this that spans different times in history?
A: One of the biggest challenges for me, was the massive amount of research. When writing in another time period, I underestimated how carefully every sentence would have to be researched. The characters needed to sound like they lived in the time period I was presenting, and every reference needed to be spot on– from what the characters were wearing, to the types of music they listened to, to the way they styled their hair. Is it any wonder that my current work in progress will take place in the present?
Q: What is the significance of the title: The Grace Kelly Dress?
A: The Grace Kelly Dress refers to the wedding dress that is handed down through three generations of women. The gown in my book was initially created in 1958, and at that time, the bride wanted the dress that everyone wanted at that time: something that looked just like what Grace Kelly wore when she married Prince Rainier in 1956.
Q: Are any of your characters based on real people you know?
A: They say that your first novel is all about you, that each and every character is you, and I think that was true of my first novel. (First two novels, perhaps!) But this is my sixth novel, so at this point, all of the characters are products of my imagination. That said, everything inspires me, so parts of real life always have their way of making their way into my work. So, I suppose a better way to answer this question would be to say: no, not on purpose.
Q: Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
A: I found Joanie, in 1982, to be the most challenging to write. I first created her character while working on the 2020 timeline, at which point we only know her as Rocky’s mother. It took a lot of thought to figure out who she would be at age 20, and how she would grow into the woman we see in 2020. Additionally, since we meet her mother in the 1958 timeline, it was important that the reader see a connection there, too.
On the first round of edits, I completely trashed the original 1982 storyline and re-wrote it from the ground up. I think that I needed the first draft to truly learn who she was, and how to create her story.
Q: What did you learn when writing the book?
A: I’ve learned so much this time around, but the lesson that most resonated for me was that writing is re-writing. From the first draft of this novel to the second, the book changed dramatically, and I think that the story is ultimately better for it. But when you’re a newer writer, it’s so hard to cut things, and it’s even harder to completely trash a part of the book and start from scratch. But really, editing the book is the thing that makes it better, and ultimately, makes you a better writer.
Q: Were you a young writer, a late bloomer, or something in between?
A: I’ve always loved to write. In fact, it’s the reason I became a lawyer. But I was one of those unhappy lawyers, so for my 30th birthday, my best friend, Shawn, organized a group gift– she got all of our friends together and sent me to my first writing class. It’s the thing that helped me to take my writing more seriously, and the place where I began writing what would become my first novel.
Q: Do you have a dedicated writing space?
A: I do have an office in my house, but I’m one of those writers who just gets the work done whenever and wherever she can. In fact, I’m on my laptop right now while my kids are at the kitchen table doing homework!
Q: Any type of writing ritual you have?
A: I wish I could say that I have certain rituals and that I have a process for letting the muse in, but the truth is, I’m just a busy working mom, so I write when I can. Sometimes, I’m dictating full chapters on the voice memo app on my phone. Sometimes, I’m jotting notes on the backs of receipts. I say: do whatever works!
Q: What is your favorite genre to read, and why?
A: I love to read, and I love reading all different types of genres. I think it makes you a better writer to be more widely read. That said, I have a soft spot for upmarket commercial fiction. If Reese Witherspoon can make a limited series HBO drama out of it, I’m in!
Q: What message do you hope readers take away from your story?
A: The main thing is that I want readers to really enjoy the story and have a great reading experience. As for a takeaway, it’s been really moving to have readers reach out to me to discuss the role that heirloom items have had in their own life. I always tell my kids: it’s people who are important, not things. But I do believe that certain things, like these heirlooms that are passed down, have meaning. They show us where our family has been, and each one has a story connected to it. Stories are powerful, and the stories about where we come from are so incredibly meaningful.
Thank you #NetGalley #GraydonHouse #TheGraceKellyDress #Brenda Janowitz and Harlequin Trade Publishing for the advanced copy.
You can order your copy of the book now at the available links below: