Once renowned for creating the most envied gowns in London, Madame Follette’s dressmaking shop has fallen far out of fashion. The approaching coronation of King George IV offers a chance to reclaim former glory by supplying stunning new wardrobes to the most glittering society in Regency England. In the face of long-held secrets, looming scandals, and the potential ruin of their shop, the dressmakers of Follette’s are undaunted, not even by the most unexpected complication of all: true love.
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Dressed to Kiss
The Duke’s Dressmaker by Madeline Hunter
Selina Duval lost her good name and her position in society four years ago, when the young man who was vigorously courting her abruptly dropped her and departed. Though she wasn’t “truly” ruined, society deemed her so, forcing her to leave her home to spare additional shame to her family and to earn her own way in the world. She’s now working as a seamstress at Madame Follette’s shop, using the surname of Fontaine. One day, Randall Woodville, the Duke of Barrowmore, comes into the shop, escorting his spoiled sister-in-law, the very woman now married to the man who ruined Selina. She always believed that the duke played a part in his brother’s jilting of her. Expecting to be exposed, Selina is surprised when the duke encourages continued patronage, even going so far as having Selina come to his home to complete the fittings. Randall always felt attraction for Selina when his brother was courting her, and though he wasn’t entirely to blame for the break-up, he was involved. Of course, the more Rand and Selina are in each other’s company the more they become attracted to each other. Selina begins to see the real man behind the ducal image, and Rand realizes just how wrongly Selina was treated. This is my favorite story in the anthology, and I loved both of these characters. Rand is very aware of his station in life, yet he’s also fair and very aware of his feelings as a man. Selina is courageous enough to reach out for her own chance at happiness despite the risks involved. THE DUKE’S DRESSMAKER is very romantic and sexy, and gets this collection off to a fabulous start.
The Colors of Love by Myretta Robens
Delyth Owen has worked as a costume designer in the theatre, but is desirous of having a more respectable occupation, so she now works as a seamstress at Madame Follette’s shop. When she designs an outrageously colored outfit for a color blind society lady, fashion columnist Simon Merrithew is appalled. Simon is a gentleman, who writes this column anonymously. He intends to discover who this horrible designer is and what her possible intentions were. Under the pretext of ordering clothes for his sister, he comes to the shop. Ultimately, Simon comes to realize that Delyth is honestly designing clothing she finds beautiful. Her theatre background and her love of vibrant colors which could be seen, even from the last row, are reflected in her creations. While Simon and Delyth find romance, he and his sister work to guide her to choices more suitable to making her a successful designer. THE COLORS OF LOVE is a kind of quirky story that asks you to just enjoy the humor and sweet romance of a somewhat clueless designer and a society gentleman overly invested in fashion.
No Accounting for Love by Megan Frampton
Henry Dawkins is the son of Madame Follette and keeps the books for the shop. Henry is a big, shy, endearing guy who just prefers his books to dealing with the society ladies who frequent the shop. One of those ladies, Effie, took a liking to Henry. Though he gave her no encouragement, she refuses to take no for an answer. She concocts a scheme to win Henry’s affections, and embroils her companion, Katherine Grant, to be part of it. Effie all but forces Henry to take dancing lessons with her, under the chaperonage of Katherine. This situation has Henry and Katherine falling for each other, and trying to find a way to stop Effie’s machinations. When Effie’s affections are finally directed elsewhere, leaving the way clear for Henry and Katherine, they still have obstacles to overcome to find their happy ever after. I read that recent favorite, Megan Frampton, used Henry Cavill as the basis for her Henry in this story. I now have a wonderful visual of Henry, wearing spectacles, feeling awkward, and too large, but being totally hot. NO ACCOUNTING FOR LOVE is a delightful tale of two inexperienced and endearing people who are so deserving of their happy ending.
A Fashionable Affair by Caroline Linden
Felicity Dawkins (sister of Henry) is Madame Follette’s daughter, and has been running the shop and doing her best to bring it back up to the level it once was. She and Henry finally convinced their mother that she needed to step aside, or the shop would surely go under. Under Felicity’s hard work, the shop is starting to rebound, but a new threat arrives in the form of Evan Hewes, Earl of Carmarthen. Evan is determined that the shabby, rundown street on which Madame Follett’s sits, needs to be revamped. He plans to tear down all the existing shops and stores, and to rebuild the entire street. In fact, he has already bought up all the property, with the exception of Madame Follette’s. Frustrated by the shop owner’s continued refusals, Evan goes to the shop in person, hoping to make the owner see reason. He’s shocked to find a lovely young woman managing the shop, and he begins his campaign to win her over. Eventually they come to an agreement that if he can find her a shop at a decent rent on a desirable street, she will sell. The time spent on a search leads them into a steamy affair, which seems doomed to failure because of the difference in their stations. A FASHIONABLE AFFAIR is a sexy and satisfying romance which brings the saga of Madame Follette’s to a fitting close.
DRESSED TO KISS is a collection of four quality stories by three of my favorite authors and a talented newcomer. I enjoyed the thread of connectivity, while appreciating each author’s different voice and style of writing. Anthologies don’t always work, but this one is a winner. Recommended!