Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Book Review: The Seamstress of New Orleans by Diane C McPhail


The year 1900 ushers in a new century and the promise of social change, and women rise together toward equality. Yet rules and restrictions remain, especially for women like Alice Butterworth, whose husband has abruptly disappeared. Desperate to make a living for herself and the child she carries, Alice leaves the bitter cold of Chicago far behind, offering sewing lessons at a New Orleans orphanage.

Constance Halstead, a young widow reeling with shock under the threat of her late husband’s gambling debts, has thrown herself into charitable work. Meeting Alice at the orphanage, she offers lodging in exchange for Alice’s help creating a gown for the Leap Year ball of Les Mysterieuses, the first all-female Krewe of Mardi Gras. During Leap Years, women have the rare opportunity to take control of their interactions with men and upend social conventions. Piece by piece, the breathtaking gown takes shape, becoming a symbol of strength for both women, reflecting their progress toward greater independence.

But Constance carries a burden that makes it impossible to feel truly free. Her husband, Benton, whose death remains a dangerous mystery, was deep in debt to the Black Hand, the vicious gangsters who controlled New Orleans’ notorious Storyville district. Benton’s death has not satisfied them. And as the Mardi Gras festivities reach their fruition, a secret emerges that will cement the bond between Alice and Constance even as it threatens the lives they’re building . . .


I love New Orleans, we are regular visitors to the city, so I was instantly intrigued by The Seamstress of New Orleans by Diane C McPhail. Not to mention that cover is so eye-catching and beautiful it makes you want to pick it up no matter what it was about.

I loved Diane C McPhail's writing, the story was well written and I enjoyed how she incorporated a mystery into the historical fiction, however being a fan of New Orleans, I was really hoping that the historical fiction part of the book was the major story and it really did not seem to be to me. The story spent most of its time on the mystery of the two men. Usually, I would have enjoyed that, I do love a good mystery, but in the case of this book, it did not work for me.

The two main characters were fantastically written as strong women who in the time of having a husband taking care of you, as a rule, showed strength in being able to do without one. 

The Seamstress of New Orleans was very well researched, the females are empowering and have a wonderful friendship. I only wish it had more on the lead-up of Mardi Gras, which the blurb spoke about, the glamour of the dresses that were being made, the female Krewes, and of course the magic that is New Orleans.

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