Madeline Hunter, Caroline Linden, Megan Frampton, Myretta Robens
Dressed to Kiss
Self-published / September 12, 2016 / $4.99 digital
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.
Dressed to Kiss is a delightful anthology written by four unique, confident voices centering around Madame Follette’s dressmaking shop. It features two dressmakers and the sister and brother who keep it afloat. As one might expect, fashion tidbits, as well as the shop’s denizens, help to bind the stories together and offer up some fun fashion analogies.
The Duke’s Dressmaker by Madeline Hunter
When the Duke of Barrowmore walks into the dress shop, Selina Fontaine assumes her secret identity will be compromised. Four years ago this man’s brother seduced her and abandoned her to scandal, and she holds the duke responsible. To her amazement the duke is more interested in pursuing her than exposing her, however—and that pursuit soon becomes seductively pleasurable.
Both Selina and Randall, the Duke of Barrowmore, are wary of each other, given their past association through his brother Giles and the misapprehension each bears about the other’s actions. It doesn’t take Rand long to realize that Selina was the wronged party in the affair and the excuse of providing his brother’s wife with a new wardrobe brings them into recurring contact and increasing amity.
“Obviously I design differently for myself than for a lady like Lady Giles. Much more simply. However, it is important for dressmakers to look like they know about lines and proportions and fit even when it comes to their own work clothes.”
“Like a horse.” He smiled as soon as he said it, a small chagrined turning up of his lips. “That is how horses are judged. Lines, proportions…”
She barely heard. That smile made him a different man. Warm. Charming. It gave those handsome angles and ridges something to do besides chisel the air. She had never seen a smile transform a face like that. If she did not hate him, she might be bedazzled. As it was, for the first time she could believe he and Giles were brothers.
“Much like a horse. Except my dresses have no teeth and do not bite.”
Of course, it isn’t long before Selina has to admit that hatred is not quite what she feels for Rand. There are several bumps on the road to their HEA – there is a lot packed into this short story – but it all comes to a wonderfully romantic conclusion.
The Colors of Love by Myretta Robens
Delyth Owen’s exuberant passion for her new job as a dressmaker at Madame Follette’s is matched only by her love of diverse, vibrant, and frequently unfortunate color combinations. Simon Merrithew, the pseudonymous author of a well-regarded fashion column, is horrified by the gown Delyth creates for a friend, and suspects her motives. He sets out to uncover her duplicity, but instead, he uncovers genuine joy and discovers the colors of love.
Delyth is a very talented dressmaker, but, having come to Madame Follette’s from the theater, when it comes to color, she wants to be sure that her dresses can be seen from the back of the house. Her over-the-top color combinations do not go unnoticed by the writer of a fashion columnist.
“Attention must be given to Lady M, whom one might be forgiven for supposing had somehow missed the entrance to Astley’s and ended up at Almack’s. Lady M not only glittered, she shone, she flashed, she radiated.”
Delyth loves her colors.
“Oh, they were wonderful: a deep crimson with a violet over-skirt, yellow piping, and just a hint of the palest green lace.”
Simon, the author of said column, is convinced by his sister that Delyth has real talent, and just needs some guidance, enlisting Simon to the cause. Simon agrees to mentor Delyth, but his real motivation is to prove that she purposely intended to make a laughing stock out the unfortunate Lady M, and he intends to expose her.
It doesn’t take long for him to realize that Delyth just really – really – likes color, and that she is an altogether enchanting creature. This a fun, and funny, romance.
No Accounting for Love by Megan Frampton
Miss Katherine Grant is a lady’s companion, one whose number of dishonorable offers (six) greatly outweigh her honorable ones (zero). Now tasked with making certain her charge, Lady Euphemia, does not contract herself to someone inappropriate, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to Mr. Henry Dawkins, the inappropriate gentleman Lady Euphemia wants to charm, who keeps the books at Madame Follette's. But it seems that Henry only has eyes for Miss Katherine Grant.
Katherine’s charge Lady Euphemia is a young, spoiled debutante, who has had a crush since childhood on Henry Dawkins, who keeps the books for his sister’s dress shop. She goes to Madame Follette’s for a new wardrobe hoping to renew her acquaintance with the Handsome Henry. Handsome Henry is very wary thinking he had already suppressed Effie’s schoolgirl crush, and he has no intention of raising any hopes along those lines. Effie’s companion, the lovely Katherine, on the other hand…
He didn’t share his sister’s knowledge and skill with clothing, but he had enough of an eye to know when something – or someone – would be remarkable if just given the right context. What would Miss Grant look like if she were given a chance to shine? He probably shouldn’t be thinking too much about that, given that he was in a shop filled to the rafters with ladies, and they would notice if he – well, he just couldn’t.
Effie puts Henry and Katherine through the wringer with her machinations, but unwittingly promotes the budding romance in this story replete with Megan Frampton’s trademark humor.
A Fashionable Affair by Caroline Linden
Madame Follette’s is Felicity Dawkins’s birthright; her mother founded it, and now she runs it. She's fiercely committed to making it the most exclusive modiste in London. The Earl of Carmarthen also has big plans for the shop—he wants to buy it and tear it down, to make way for a grand new boulevard of shops. One way or another, he’s determined to persuade Felicity…not only to sell her shop, but to explore the passion that sparks between them every time they meet.
Finally, we arrive at Felicity Dawkins’ story. She runs her mother’s dress shop but it is being threatened by Evan, the Earl of Carmarthen, a developer who has bought out every shop on Vine Street - except hers. Felicity is passionate about the shop and her location, though it is becoming hopelessly rundown. Evan is just as passionate about revitalizing London through modernization. He has a battle on his hands to uproot Madame Follette’s. Felicity eventually sees the handwriting on the wall and agrees to sell him the shop if he can find her a suitable venue to which to relocate. To this end, he takes her on various tours of possible storefronts.
“I haven’t the first idea about being a modiste,” Evan admitted. “But I did research property values very thoroughly, and what improvements would yield the most benefit for the longest time.”
“That is good sense,” she replied. “And good dressmaking sense as well. I don’t make gowns that cater solely to the fashion of the moment. A gown can be fashionable while still being timeless, so a woman might wear it for a few years at least, with alterations and different accessories.”
“Perhaps we’re not so different,” he said, pulling up in front of the first shop to let. “We want to make things that will last.”
Her lips parted in surprise as he jumped down and held out a hand to help her. “Perhaps not,” she said, sounding pleasantly surprised.
It takes some time for the wary adversaries to realize that there is more binding them together than pulling them apart, not the least of which is a powerful attraction which turns into an abiding love.
Dressed to Kiss is full of the Three F’s: fun, fashion and falling in love.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Dressed to Kiss by Madeline Hunter, Caroline Linden, Megan Frampton, and Myretta Robens, available September 12, 2016:
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Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com