Paris, 1941: As Coco Chanel’s assistant, Adèle lives side by side with German officers in the splendor of The Ritz hotel. But Adèle has a secret. She is working for the resistance, right under the German’s noses.
As occupied Paris becomes more and more dangerous, Adèle will have to decide if she can risk everything to save innocent lives and protect the man she loves…
Present day: Chloé’s grandmother has never spoken about the war and avoids questions about the legendary designer she once worked for. Now Chloé has come to Paris, to uncover the truth about Adèle’s life. But is she prepared for what she will find? And for the power of her grandmother’s secrets to change her family forever…
***Thanks to NetGalley and Avon for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.
solid, good read:
The Dressmaker’s Secret builds a story around Coco Chanel during WWII, focusing on the others around her, trapped in her gravitational pull.
The book description overstates Adèle’s involvement with the resistance. She is brave and fights for her beliefs, but it’s more in small, human acts of kindness than as part of a larger force. Her empathetic nature is admirable, especially during wartime, but I expected more of a spy plot based on the description. However, this made the story more believable – her few heroic acts fly under the radar, for the most part, so while there is some danger, it’s not inescapable.
"Why do you think it's frightening?"
She thought before speaking. "Love must be a feeling of being out of control. And I'm not sure I would like that...that total powerlessness. It makes me worried that it could make a person..." she thought for the right word. "...vulnerable. It makes me feel I would be vulnerable," she said quietly. She wished she'd not said it. She wished she'd not fallen into her own trap of thinking aloud. The hot blush creeping up her face was unbearable.
He continued looking at her. "You would be," he said. "We're all vulnerable in love. You should be able to be totally and utterly lost in love, swept up in it. That's how it should be. That's the beauty of it."
I didn’t feel the chemistry in either of the romances. Adèle and Theo had almost no time together. I know war raises the stakes and speeds up the timeline in many relationships, but it seems they jumped from acquaintances to soulmates within a few pages. It was clear they were interested in each other, but everything moved way too quickly in too short a time to make their outcome believable. Chloé and Etienne were almost the opposite. They felt so much like awkward acquaintances who didn’t particularly like each other. Every interaction ends in a disagreement or misunderstanding, so I was genuinely surprised when it became clear they were supposed to be love interests. They spend so much time together for seemingly no reason – their relationship truly baffled me.
I didn’t know anything about Coco Chanel, so her actions during the war were news to me. With the author’s note at the end, I found the narrative to be a balanced telling of the known information. I don’t think you necessarily have to be interested in fashion to find how notable historical figures survived during the war interesting. And say what you will about Chanel; she is undoubtedly a notable historical figure.
I love when historical fiction builds a world around a well-known figure, and this was done incredibly well in The Dressmaker’s Secret. Though there were a few hiccups, I very much enjoyed this read.