If you, like me, enjoy your mainstream fiction with a heavy dose of romance, then let me recommend The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry. Here’s the intriguing first line from the back cover copy:
“As we like to say in the South, ‘Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story.’ ”
Ella’s perfect life is in disarray when she meets writer Hunter, a screenwriter posing as an historian. He’s looking for the perfect story to get his career back on track, and he finds it in Ella, the beautiful, young Southern widow with a gripping, bittersweet love story.
Each has secrets and both are telling lies, and as they unravel them and get to the heart of their own stories, they may just find that the relationship they’ve barely started is far more true and honest than anything they’ve created in their “real” lives.
I found the romance wholly satisfying, but I loved the way the book played with the ideas of story and self. Ella is a Southern good girl who is being taken advantage of by almost everyone in her life, but she’s so bonded to her idea of who she’s supposed to be that she doesn’t realize she’s losing herself in the illusion. Until the moment when she presents herself to a stranger in a completely dishonest way, and she begins to emerge more honestly as her true self.
Ella is also a wedding dress designer, and the added elements of Ella’s design talent and Hunter’s Hollywood persona make for some interesting metaphorical dimensions on the themes of re-invention and authenticity.
And since Ella is a designer, I thought I’d use that theme to recommend a few other books.
You may know I love Kristan Higgins, and I mention her books a lot—mainly because every reader who loves romance will probably love KH—but her recent release, If You Only Knew, was a terrific step into women’s fiction while still maintaining sigh-worthy romance in one of the storylines. And the main character is also a wedding dress designer, if you were wondering how I was connecting those dots!
Another main character who’s a designer (and another book I’ve mentioned before, though it’s been a while) is Sarah James from Megan Mulry’s If The Shoe Fits. This is the first book I read by this author and I simply loved it. Sarah James is a shoe designer, and while the book had a couple of issues, I just loved the angst and drama of the relationship, and the back and forth the couple had to go through before they found their happily-ever-after. It’s a grand mix of modern English aristocracy, luxury fashion, and high romance drama that somehow perfectly balances sweet romance, passionate sex, and elegant storytelling.
Two historical romance favorites have design elements in their recent series. Loretta Chase’s Dressmaker series is engaging, but the upcoming title, Dukes Prefer Blondes—the first offshoot from the series—is my favorite so far. Chase delves into the horror of poverty in early-19th-century London in an engaging, hopeful way, and her description of Lady Clara’s wardrobe, designed by the sisters of the House of Noirot, is glorious. As is the romance between Lady Clara and sexy barrister Redford. Yum!
I really can’t wait for Anne Gracie’s final title in her Chance Sisters series—apparently, I have to wait until next June! *childish pout*—but we’ve seen Daisy grow more and more into a dress designer through the previous three books. The Summer Bride will be Daisy’s story, and I can’t wait to see who she winds up with, and how she’ll navigate her burgeoning talent and career with the swoonworthy romance I know the author will give her. Until then, if you haven’t read the first three titles—The Autumn Bride, The Winter Bride, and The Spring Bride—I highly recommend them!
So what about you—any romances you know and love that have designer elements in them? And if you’ve read the ones I’ve mentioned here, did you love them?