BOOK CLUB: Dressing The Dearloves

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Author: Kelly Doust
ISBN: 978-1-4607-5101-5
RRP: $32.99
Publication Date: 20th August 2018
Publisher: Harper Collins
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Dressing the Dearloves is the sophomore offering of Kelly Doust, a woman who loves vintage fashion. Her love of vintage fashion is something that shines through in her novels. The book is about a Manored English family who have always prided themselves on public reputation but it soon becomes just as much about the significant fashion history contained in the attic.

Sylvie Dearlove is a fashion designer who wanted to make it big in New York. She has talent and had a great start but when the inspiration started to run dry things stopped going so well. Feeling like she has to live up to the family name Sylvie loses contact with her entire support network back home. Friends and family alike hardly hear from her until finally she decides she has to head home to regroup for a couple of weeks.

We soon discover that Sylvie is running from more than just the ruins of her fashion label, and that she’s going to get more than she bargained for when she gets home.

It’s all well and good to own a Manor but as they age the upkeep becomes an expensive exercise. Sylvie has been trying to convince her parents to sell for years but the place has been in the family for generations so they just can’t bear to part with it. Sylvie’s return home sees four generations living in Bledesford Manor together and the history is palpable. Unfortunately the manor house is showing every one of its years and if something isn’t done soon it will crumble into ruins.

Sylvie’s parents have taken out loan after loan but it’s getting to the point that the funds just don’t go far enough to make any headway. The Dearloves have made the heartbreaking decision to sell. The house is almost completely closed up and they only use what rooms they need to, the grounds are unkempt and the property is nowhere near ready to sell.

Home for a while anyway Sylvie is asked to help with the mammoth task of sorting through the generations worth of wardrobe stored in the attic. The story shines through the fashion finds and the attic acts as the doorway through time to connect us with earlier Dearloves and share their stories, as imprinted on the material memory of their garments almost.

Doust has captured an amazing time span in one novel as we delve into the lives of five generations of Dearloves, uncovering a host of secrets, lies and betrayals; discovering love stories that never quite made it to the annals of the family history.

Dressing the Dearloves is a beautiful story that offers something for everyone. There is romance, fashion, mystery and a gorgeous English manor that is slowly brought back from the brink.

Sylvie has always felt a lot of familial pressure to live up to the family name, to never bring negative attention to the family and reputation is of the utmost importance. It’s no wonder that she felt a little too ashamed to turn back to those on home soil for support when it all fell apart, especially when her fashion brand IS the family name.

Lizzie Dearlove is Sylvie’s aging great-grandmother and current matriarch of the Dearloves. She is now in her 90s and once Sylvie is back at Bledesford she realises that perhaps Lizzie isn’t doing as well as she could make out in Skype catchups. We see a lot of her through Sylvie’s eyes in the present and feel the bond they have always shared.

We get to know Elizabeth Dearlove through the flashbacks throughout the book and she’s not quite the dear old lady Sylvie loves. I actually found her quite unbearable. I could understand how she ended up that way, but it didn’t stop me finding her quite intolerable. She is quite proper and had it drummed into her how important the family name is.

The fashion finds in the attic help us to see a different side of Lizzie but her advanced age is also seeing her let things slip that she’s been keeping close for decades.

Gigi Dearlove is Sylvie’s hippie grandmother, who has always been painted quite flaky. It isn’t until Sylvie returns home that she starts to see Gigi more clearly, through a lens that isn’t coloured by other opinions. Gigi has lived a colourful life and seen a lot, she has the wardrobe to prove it, but now she’s settled in at Bledesford and living a much more sedate life.

The clothes, the manor and the people all undergo quite a transformation that was fascinating to watch and kept me captivated. Doust presents a history of fashion along with the history of the Dearloves and the Manor and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Dressing the Dearloves is book #40 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2018.

Thanks to HarperCollins Australia 15 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading Dressing the Dearloves so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

You can find Kelly Doust on her website at kellydoust.com.auFacebook and Instagram.

14 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Dressing The Dearloves

  1. Just finished this delightful book. Very hard to put down till the very end . The way the family history unravels is enchanting. The description of the fashion found in the attic is captivating. Loved the ending. Thank you

  2. “Dressing The Dearloves” is Kelly Doust’s second novel and the follow-up to “Precious Things.” This historical fiction book covers multiple generations of the Dearlove family. There is a failed fashion designer named Sylvie who returns home to the UK. Her fabulous hippie grandmother Gigi has some amazing stories from the sixties to tell while Lizzie is her antithesis and the prim and proper family matriarch.

    This book reminds me of Natasha Lester’s work insofar as the vintage fashion plays a role in this story of lies and family secrets.

    This is an engrossing book where all is eventually revealed with just the right amount of intrigue.

  3. Thanks for the opportunity to read ‘Dressing the Dearloves’ by Kelly Doust.

    This is quite a novel! I was unsure initially but as the story unfolded and the stories of Rose, Lizzie, Victoria, Gigi and Sylvie unfolded, the more I became entranced by the story.

    This is a multilayered story about the importance of family and how sometimes how doing the ‘right thing’ is not the right thing.

    Sorting through the clothes of the generations of Dearlove women, helps Sylvie to find what is important to her – and she finds some amazing clothes that help reignite her passion as a fashion designer.

    This is a really enjoyable book on so many levels. I would have liked more information on Gigi’s story as a famous groupie of the 1960’s, but perhaps that could be a whole other book. But there are so many interesting characters – some interesting and likeable. The story of Victoria is particularly interesting….but I can’t say more! Lizzie is the least likeable, but she was a woman of the times and of her upbringing..

    I would recommend Dressing the Dearloves as an amazing book for any fan of family based stories! Many thanks again.

  4. I loved this book. There was fashion, love and family secrets. The story was fabulous and hard to stop until the end. Wouldn,t it be great to have an attic full of clothes to go through.

  5. If you love history, sagas and fashion you’ll love ‘Dressing the Dearloves’ by Kelly Doust. What a lovely book to read! It flips between the past and present and has a delightful secret that is not revealed until the end. It was an easy book to read that I found difficult to put down. The characters were developed well and I didn’t find any of them lacking, like I sometimes do. Thank you Beauty and Lace for another wonderful book to review and add to my collection >:o)

  6. Kelly Doust has had much involvement in fashion and publishing so to write a fictional novel with fashion at its core seems like a natural progression.

    Dressing the Dearloves is a rich multi-generational story that moves effortlessly from present-day to the late 1920’s through to the early 1940’s spanning five generations of Dearloves.

    Sylvie Dearlove returns home to England, her life in New York in ruins. Her fashion label has crashed and she has been declared bankrupt. Haunted by failure and wracked by guilt she runs to the only place she feels safe, the family’s estate Bledesford, only to find it in rack and ruin her parents barely able to afford the upkeep. Doust highlights the dire straits some families found themselves in trying to keep up with mounting expenses on these rambling estates and the work of the National Trust in helping owners open their homes to the public for viewing, tea rooms and weddings.

    The Dearlove women are all strong, outspoken women. They are all very arty and clothing and fashion is a passion passed down through the generations. All the beautiful gowns and day wear have been stored in the attic from the 1920’s through to the 1960’s. I loved how the items of clothing were tied to memorable moments in the Dearlove women’s lives and Doust seamlessly moved from an unearthed fashion piece to the relevant time and story concerning that piece.

    Dressing the Dearloves is an engaging story of love and war and doing what’s expected in times where skeletons were pushed firmly to the back of the closet only to be released with a lot of poking and questions asked.

    The story evolved with the unique addition of internet search items, newspaper excerpts and diary entries. I particularly liked the for sale advertisement for Bledesford which described the estate beautifully.

    I was captivated by this story from beginning to end and my mind was reeling as the secrets just kept coming and coming.

    (hoping to get review with links on my blog in a few days)

  7. Dressing the Dearloves by Kelly Doust is a book about history, sagas, romance and fashion. Sylvie Dearlove is a failed fashion designer in New York who moves back to England.

    As the story unfolds we find out about the lives of Rose, Lizzie, Victoria, Gigi and most of all Sylvie and her parents. The story goes back and forth in history showing the importance of family and how no matter what a family name may hold and expectations of that name its not always what it is made out to be.

    When Sylvie returns to England her parents tell her that they must sell Bledesford the Dearlove ancestral home, it is now in disrepair and needs much money spent to bring it back to its former glory. Sylvie and her mother start to clear out clothes of generations of Dearloves stored in the attic, with much history attached to the articles of clothing. This then sparks a new love and the importance of Fashion to Sylvie and helps to reignite her passion to be a fashion designer again but in a different place and with different ideas.

    When Sylvie was sorting through the attic she discovers a secret which has been hidden for decades, a secret that could change everything!

  8. Dressing the Dearloves by Kelly Doust is a beautiful warm romantic mystery
    of secrets, love, fashion, and family.

    This is the story of Silvia Dearlove who escapes to New York to follow her
    dream of being a fashion designer only to fail and return to her once
    grand home of Bledsford that has belonged to her family for generations.

    Silvia tried to escape being a Dearlove and the pressure of belonging to a
    family of headstrong successful women.

    She starts to help her parents prepare run down Bledsford for sale when
    she finds in the attic chests of elaborate dresses and accessories from
    the five generations of the Dearlove women uncovering long held family secrets.

    The story moves easily between the 1920’s 1940’s and the present day.

    This novel is an easy, comfortable read full of interesting, strong characters.

    I would highly recommend this book. It is very entertaining and moving with
    twists and turns along the way.

  9. I like the fashion and the present and the past. The beautiful manor house, gardens and the dress describe in this book, you could imagine them in your head. I found that it took along time to get anywhere and when it did it end too quickly. A family with skeletons in the closet.

  10. Dressing the Dearloves by Kelly Doust is a beautifully written book about romance, family and a little bit of mystery.
    After finding out this is Kelly’s second novel it makes me want to buy her first.
    The characters are all so different which makes you want to find out more about each one!
    This is a must to read!

  11. Dressing the Dearloves is the second book from Australian author, Kelly Doust. I was a big fan of her debut novel, Precious Things, and her follow up has cemented Kelly as one of my (many) favorite historical fiction authors. I was immediately captured by the beauty of the cover and once I started reading I was hooked! Dressing the Dearloves is the story of four generations of Dearlove women, starting with Rose Dearlove in 1926 up until the present time with her great great granddaughter, Sylvie. With chapters alternating between the past and the present, interwoven with book, magazine and blog excerpts, the Dearlove women are dealing with their individual passions and problems, A common thread runs through their separate lives,; men and fashion. I adored spending time with each woman and getting to know them on a deeper level. With such unique personalities, I found I didn’t have a favorite as they were all interesting in their own right. This is needs to go on the TBR pile for fans of historical fiction!

  12. This is a great historical novel dealing with family conflicts and expectations, I found the story a little slow initially, but as the story continued, and the characters developed, I didn’t want it to end. Particularly fascinating was the attic full of fashion through the eras. A great holiday read!

  13. I absolutely loved this book. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as I don’t know a great deal about fashion, but I was captivated by the story right from the start. The clothes are described so beautifully they become almost characters themselves, and I loved how they linked the various generations of Dearlove women through time. I enjoyed the style of jumping backwards and forwards in time between the different women, discovering more about each of their stories each time. It was fascinating to read of the struggles each woman faced, the weight of expectations upon them, and how perceptions of each character changed as more was understood about her. I couldn’t put it down! The sort of book that leaves you feeling really good.

    Thank you to HarperCollins Australia, and to Beauty and Lace for a great read.

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