Review: The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans

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Alix Gower has a dream: to join the ranks of Coco Chanel to become a designer in the high-stakes world of Parisian haute couture. But Alix also has a secret: she supports her family by stealing designs to create bootlegs for the foreign market. A hidden sketchbook and two minutes inside Hermès is all she needs to create a perfect replica, to be whisked off to production in New York.

Then Alix is given her big break – a chance to finally realize her dream in one of the most prominent Parisian fashion houses – but at the price of copying the breakthrough Spring Collection.

Knowing this could be her only opportunity, Alix accepts the arrangement. But when a mystery from her past resurfaces and a chance meeting has her falling into the arms of a handsome English war reporter, Alix learns that the slightest misstep – or misplaced trust – could be all it takes for her life to begin falling apart at the seams.

I was rather torn about whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. There was so much good about it, but I disliked the romantic interests so much I’m pulled in the direction of a 3. The story itself of a young woman thrown into a plot to steal designs from one of the famous fashion houses in pre-WWII Paris is fascinating and unique. Alix’s involvement in the fashion industry is thorough interesting and obviously well researched. The backstabbing and high tension of couture design makes for an exciting read as does Alix’s involvement in a little thought about aspect of the industry: knock off pirated design. Alix is desperate for money, but she also thoroughly respects the designer she ends up working for as an artist (which is what designers really are) and is deeply conflicted over stealing his designs. Meanwhile, another excellent plot is going on over who is blackmailing Alix’s patron and just what exactly happened to Alix’s murdered artist grandfather. The secrets of the past make for a good secondary mystery plot that is very well executed. The characters around her are more embroiled in that situation, which works since Alix’s character is taken up with her counterfeit couture and the moral implications of that.

The biggest problems I had were with the love interests. The romance plot plays a big part of the novel and I wish it didn’t because it’s the weakest aspect in my opinion. I would have been perfectly happy with just the mystery and the fashion plots without the emphasis on the romance because all three men put forward had little appeal to me. Serge is supposed to be a thug, so that part isn’t really a problem, though you question why, even with her explanation of wanting companionship and fun, Alix ever even tolerates him at all. Alix’s friendship with Paul is presented as something that seems like it will be a big deal at the onset, but which fades into some awkward jealousy and a male character resentful of Alix’s choices (even if they were wrong). Verrian, who is the “hero”, falls into the same category. He makes demands of Alix, leaves her, won’t reveal his past or about his wife, then voices his displeasure that she didn’t wait for him nor wants to drop everything to hop in bed with him when he shows back up. I might have had less problem with that if he amended his thinking, but the end response by Alix is “I’ve been putting him off and teasing him too much, no wonder he’s angry and sort of aggressive with me”. While I understand that this might be an attempt to copy the mindset of the time period, it was still rather unpleasant to me. He keeps Alix in the dark “for her own good” when it comes to his personal issues and that is sort of left as an “okay” thing. He runs hot and cold, pushing Alix away one minute and professing undying love the next. And ALL the men refuse to respect any decision Alix makes in regards to them. Maybe some readers will find that appealing in a romance, but all that toxic masculinity was a turn off for me.

So that being said, I do recommend the book because the two main plots were FANTASTIC. Possibly the romance was a personal dislike on my part, but it was enough to leave a bit of a funny taste in my mouth over the “happy” ending.

3 out of 5

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