Blurb: A vintage wedding dress reveals family secrets she never knew…
The chance discovery of a vintage wedding dress weaves together the fascinating stories of three women from different eras: Sophie, in hiding from a troubled past; Belle, who must lose everything to learn what really matters; and Martha, forced to give up those she loves in order to avoid exposure.
It’s 1930 and Belle Bartholomew has arrived in rural Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance – a run-down grand hotel formerly owned by Martha Ambrose. Determined to solve the mystery of her birth and the reason why she was bequeathed the hotel Belle runs into difficulties with the townsfolk and their desire to keep their secrets safe.
Sixty years later Sophie Matheson is on a quest to find Belle and her family after discovering the wedding dress. The Sweet Wattle Creek Centenary brings more challenges when her past catches up and she must fight for all that matters to her. Who were Belle and Martha and what links their lives together?
This is the story of three women through time, though the wedding dress in question links Sophie and Belle more than it links them to Martha. However, that is an incidental point in the end. This is the story of three women, each defined by the time in which they find themselves and trying to do the right thing.
Kaye Dobbie’s writing is comfortable, it’s almost as if you know these women already despite the vast differences between the times you, the reader, are in and theirs. I think though, that is a testament to the universal nature of what these women go through – a better way to describe their situations is perhaps to say that Martha, Belle and Sophie all experience things that have been constant in women’s lives, no matter the time they live in.
That’s a rather depressing thought, now that I think about it. Martha gives up her child because of the scandal surrounding her birth, while a generation later, her daughter Belle endures family and financial scandals. Then, in the present day – well, 1980s – Sophie is on the run with her son from a violent ex. She’s so afraid of him, that she changes her name and her son’s before settling down in Sweet Wattle Creek.
Don’t let the different eras throw you – this story is simply about strong women, caught up in events that force them to make tough choices.
Of the three, Martha is more world-weary I think. She knows the society in which she lives will never forgive her for her “transgressions”, and she does what she can to save her daughter from that stigma that would come from her actions. Martha is present for too short a time, I think for her story and Belle’s were the ones that interested me the most.
Belle, when we meet her, is young and innocent in some ways, and in others she is well on the path to the same world-weariness Martha exhibits. The Great Depression forces her to grow up, and to move on from her the life she knew with her father. It’s then that Belle blossoms, coming into her own as a character and makes a new life for herself. It’s not as easy as I describe it, and her story is the one with the most interesting cast of supporting characters, and time, I think.
Sophie is hiding under an assumed name with her son when we meet her. She is comfortable in her new life, as much as she can allow herself to be, at least knowing her ex is still out there wanting to get to her and their son. She allows herself to get drawn into an investigation of a wedding dress that is accidentally delivered to her job at a newspaper. From there, she learns to let herself live again, to love – a lesson her investigation teaches her because the wedding dress belonged to Belle.
Happiness was never where these women thought it would be in Sweet Wattle Creek. But the beauty of this gentle story is that it can be found again if you’re willing to be brave enough to reach for it.
This is the first part of a blog tour with Kaye Dobbie for Sweet Wattle Creek’s release! Tune in next week for an interview with Kaye, but in the meantime, buy Sweet Wattle Creek here.