Nell Marchwold is a junior apprentice milliner with the prestigious Oscar Fields Millinery in New York City in 1922, the time of flappers, speakeasies and jazz. She loves the way her job gives her the opportunity to bring out a woman's inner beauty through the design of a fabulous hat, but her boss isn't always supportive of her ideas, and he isn't prepared to give her the opportunity to show what she can do because of her stammerâ€”which gets worse when she is under stress. Unfortunately, with Mr Fields as a boss, that's a lot of the time. However, a client recommends a speech therapist who has an unusual approach, and these sessions are a turning point for Nell.
The Hatmaker's Heart is set in fashionable New York and London, and it's obvious a huge amount of research has gone into writing the book, as I got a real feel for the time and place. I'm often a picky reader when it comes to historical fiction, as so many authors fall down with the research, but I couldn't find any faults (there may well be some, but none stood out). I was especially impressed by the richness of the language, specifically the descriptions of the hats Nell creates, and the Twenties slang used by the characters. It really gave me an insight into the culture of the time.
I was equally impressed by the characterisation, especially of Nell and her boss, Oscar Fields. Nell was very timid at the beginning, but as the novel progressed, she gradually developed some backbone. Mr Fields was a controlling boss (I suspect he knows Nell is a better person than him, so the only way for him to feel like a "man" was to threaten and belittle her). This gave the novel a dark undercurrent, and meant we were rooting for Nell to stand up to Mr Fields.
While I very much enjoyed The Hatmaker's Heart, it wasn't entirely what I was expecting. The title gave me the impression it was a romance, and while it had romantic elements, that wasn't the main focus of the plot. It is published by Faithwords (an imprint of Hachette), which indicated it was Christian fiction. It was, but the faith elements were more low-key than most. Despite these slight quibbles, I very much enjoyed The Hatmaker's Heart, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys clean historical fiction with a touch of faith and romance.
Thanks to Faithwords, Litfuse Publicity and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
An intriguing look at life in the high fashion industry during the roaring twenties. I found the historical details in this book completely fascinating. Makes for a great backdrop to plop poor, innocent Nell into the middle of.
She is a complicated character. A small town girl with more than one tragedy in her past who takes on the cut-throat business of haute couture in New York City. I loved Nell the second I 'met' her. Sweet and conflicted, she's chasing a dream that almost swallows her whole. Her struggles to find herself by confronting her past makes for an inspirational read.
Great secondary characters -- both friend and foe -- bring added dimension to a captivating read.
My thanks to the publisher and Litfuse Publicity Group for supplying me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
I've been a Carla Stewart fan since her first novel came out. Stewart has an engaging way of bringing nostalgia to life with intriguing characters struggling with life's crazy ups and downs. In this novel, Stewart explores the fashion industry of the '20s, taking the reader from New York to London and back again as central character Nell Marchwold discovers the inner strength she didn't know she had. Stewart obviously did her research about the hatmaking business as well as the New York and England settings. Lyrical prose and vivid descriptions remain hallmarks of Stewart's writing.
I'll be looking forward to the next novel from Carla Stewart, which looks to be a fun one as it takes up the adventures of Nell's high-flying cousin!
"...Not all women have perfect features, but they all have inner beauty, and it's pure bliss to see the transformation when someone with, say, plain features gets a glimpse in the mirror in one of my hats and feels beautiful. For some, I suspect it may be the first time. It's not about my happiness, but other women discovering their own beauty and carrying themselves with poise." ~Nell Marchwold
The Hatmaker's Heart is about Nell Marchwold who managed to secure a job as an apprentice hatmaker for Oscar Fields Millinery in New York City after some hats she made for patrons at the Kentucky Derby were discovered by Oscar Fields himself. Nell is British and left London after her father died. Once her hats are discovered by the famous clothes designer Soren Michaels her career takes off, eventually leading her back to London where she left her best friend, Quentin Bledsoe, behind four years earlier. Seeing Quentin makes her realize her feelings for him were stronger than she once believed but Oscar has a reign on Nell and is forcing her to stay with his company and do things his way, even resorting to threats to keep her from leaving. Finally, Nell has to make a decision about what's most important in her life.
The one thing that I could really relate to in this book was the fact that Nell stammered when she spoke. I have several people in my family with this same problem so I understood the way Nell felt during her most difficult battles with it. I loved the idea that, even though Nell had trouble communicating easily with her speech, she communicated through her designs. Her reason for being a hat designer was so touching. Once a lady tried on her special creation she realized her inner beauty and the outer beauty that usually remained hidden became evident. It was a boost to their self-esteem and I relate it to what the Bible says when it calls us God's masterpiece. Regardless of how plain we think we are, God sees only beauty.
"We all have a bit of good and evil in us. Let your words and your deeds show the world what dwells in your heart." ~Nell's Grandmama
It includes a little mystery in regards to Nell's speech once she starts seeing a doctor at the Addison Avenue Speech Center because he relates her stammer to a tragic event from her past. I always enjoy a little mystery and thought it complimented the story well. The entire scene is set in the "Roaring 20's" and the story holds true to this time frame. When I think of the "Roaring 20's" I think of the Lindy Hop, the Charleston, beautifully decorated hats and dresses that bounced when they danced and gangsters. This book had all of these things and more. I got a real feel for that time period while reading it but, when I think of the Lindy Hop and those bouncy dresses, I think of something that is fast-paced and full of pizzazz. This book was very enjoyable and entertaining but it seemed a little slow to me for a book set during that time period. That is really the only negative thing I found. I will say that the characters were so life-like they brought out a variety of emotions in me. But none more so than Oscar Fields. I wanted to throttle him but that's only because I took his high-handedness personally. I loved Quentin's boyish charm and his character really helped deflect that icicles coming off of Oscar. So, in my opinion, the characters were very engaging and well balanced and I really loved the "Roaring 20's" theme. The use of such quips as "Isn't this just the gnat's whistle?", "It's the berries." and "It's copacetic." really makes the story more authentic. I feel that anyone that enjoys historical romances will get a kick out of this book, it's setting and it's well developed plot. I certainly recommend it!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review and no monetary compensation was received.
I was drawn to this story by the cover. How pretty is it? The colors, the hats, the clothes, it offers such a wonderful idea to what this story is about. After reading through this book, this is the perfect cover. It captures the story beautifully in this photo.
This is the first story I've read by Carla Stewart and I was not disappointed. I was pulled in and I couldn't put this book down. I honestly read this story till I was through and that was at 4am. This was not an action filled story. On the contrary, it was a very thoughtful story. A story of growth and finding who you are meant to be, all set during the roaring 20's, prohibition in America, and the royal wedding in England.
This story had such an amazing background and the characters that were presented just enhanced everything. The Hatmaker's Heart also reminded me just a little bit of The King's Speech, which I loved. Nell Marchwold, our heroine of the story suffers from a stammer and has from a very young age. On her journey through this book, she goes to see a speech therapist who's techniques are similar to that in The King's Speech, and it helped in understanding and getting to know Nell.
I loved watching Nell grow and blossom in this story. She started off meek and as the story went on, a new strength emerged and instead of fighting it and staying in the shell she was in, she let it fall away. Which was a delight, because her boss treated her horribly. Oh, my word! Never has there been such a manipulative, possessive, jerk of a boss then Oscar Fields. His selfishness really had no bounds.
I enjoyed the secondary characters as well. Her coworkers and roommates were interesting and all offered up such different personalities that just blended with the story well.
Also, the synopsis was a little misleading, but it was in a good way. I was thinking the story was going to be one way, but it ended up being something else entirely. I will not say more to spoil it, but I will say that I really enjoyed the ending.
Thank you to Litfuse and Faith Words Publishing, I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.