Review: A Dress of Violet Taffeta by Tessa Arlen

I have to say that Tessa Arlen has been an author that I have enjoyed in different ways over the years. I started reading her earlier books years ago which were mostly historical mysteries. Later on I discovered her new heroines and historical fiction series as well and later on a standalone historical fiction novel. Some times, some authors are better at writing mysteries while others thrieve with general historical fiction. Arlen is wonderful at all of them! I have loved many of her books for different reasons as they are always well written and researched.

This book was a no brainer! First I featured an excerpt for a tour of the book, but I knew this would be one that I would absolutely read, sadly the tour timeline didn’t line up with my own reading calendar so I had to just do a feature for the tour but immediately started reading the book as soon as I read the excerpt! It sounded so good and plus—that COVER! I am so in love with the cover! It’s stunning and a wonderful historical fiction read.

One of the reasons that I was so drawn to this book (besides the author and cover) was the time period. I love Edwardian era books so much and often they are few and far between with authors favoring either the Victorian era or WWI. The Edwardian era is such a weird time period with authors often just lightly touching on it and then moving on into WWI, but with Arlen I knew that I would get a well researched and well written accounting of my favorite historical period! And I was not disappointed!


A sumptuous novel based on the fascinating true story of Belle Epoque icon Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, a woman determined to shatter the boundaries of the fashion world and support herself and her young daughter with her magnificent designs.

Lucy Duff Gordon knows she is talented. She sees color, light, fabric, and texture in ways few other people do. But is the world ready for her? A world dominated by men who would try to control her and use her art for their own gain?

After being deserted by her wealthy husband, Lucy is desperate to survive. She turns to her one true talent to make a living. As a little girl, the dresses she made for her dolls were the envy of her group of playmates. Now, she uses her courageous innovations in Belle Époque fashion to support her own little girl. Lucile knows it is an uphill battle, and a single woman is not supposed to succeed on her own, but she refuses to give up. She will claim her place in the fashion world; failure simply is not an option.

Then, on a frigid night in 1912, Lucy’s life changes once more, when she becomes one of 706 people to survive the sinking of the Titanic. She could never have imagined the effects the disaster would have on her career, her marriage to her second husband, and her legacy. But no matter what life throws at her, Lucile will live on as a trailblazing and fearless fashion icon, never letting go of what she worked so hard to earn. This is her story.  (Summary from Goodreads)


Before I read this book I had no idea who Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon was. Essentially I was a blank slate when it came to the main character of this novel and I found that the more I read her as a character, the more I wanted to know about her. I often found myself distracted from the book and down a Wikipedia rabit hole looking for more info about this interesting main character. That’s not to say that book was ‘boring’ just because I was distracted—on the contrary I was so interested in the main character that I wanted to know all the things about her! You cannot help but fall in love with Lucy. Her husband leaves her with a young daughter to raise and ultimately she is divorced from her first husband—practically unheard of in that time!She was also one of the survivors of the Titanic and the whole time I was thinking ‘I need to know everything about this woman!”. She instantly captured me heart and imagination. I felt positively transported by this book thanks to her character, not to mention the historical details!

Arlen knows her history. But with this book she really highlights the fashion of the time period in addition to capturing the details of the time period. I love fashion and Edwardian era fashion was elegant and for women, complex. I can’t imagine wearing a dress that was so hard to get on that I needed a lady’s maid to help me! But then again I wear mostly gym clothes so there’s that! At any rate, I couldn’t help but be interested in the dresses and the designes of the time and I loved how Arlen let the fashion industry take the lead in some ways throughout the novel.

This book is full of history and intereting characters and plot. But it doesn’t read like a history book. It isn’t full of boring and cold facts but rather it’s full of vibrant and interesting details and a thrilling story of perseverance, emotion, and charm. The prose is elegant and as you are reading you feel like you are reading something just as elegant and polished as one of Lucy’s designs. I absolutely loved this book and cannot tell you how much I recommend it. I knew it was going to be great but it ended up not just being great but exceptional! I adored my time with the characters and story and was sorry to see it end. Historical fiction fans, this is the book you have been waiting for this summer! Add this one to your TBR immediately!

Book Info and Rating

Paperback, 352 pages

Published July 5th 2022 by Berkley Books

ISBN 0593436857 (ISBN13: 9780593436851)

Free review copy provided by publisher, Berkley Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 5 stars

Genre: historical fiction


Charming comments go here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s