Ballantine, $13.95, ISBN 0-345-46237-8
Historical Fiction, 2003 (Reissue)
I have to warn you, if you roll up your eyes at thought of men and women holding Confederation revival meetings and you think the whole Southern preoccupation with weddings and images a whole lot of crock, you will find The Wedding Dress a whole lot of stinking ya-ya’s. Me, I manage to gloss over the “Damn you Yankees! You have no right!” ra-ra-roos to enjoy the light, glossy, pleasant, but unmemorable romance underneath.
The Civil War is over, and the South is decimated. I’m sure the North is too, but since all Yankees are evil slave-consorting scumbags, we don’t deem them significant. Anyway, our noble Confederate widows Julia and Victoria Atwater decide to salvage their sister Claire’s upcoming wedding by sewing Claire a wedding dress. No food? No wood? Nonsense, we need to make a dress! So there they go, pawning all they have to make a freaking dress. Seriously. But lucky for them, all those helpful Southerners understand and offer the sisters lots of goodies. See, Yankee scums? You are all dust, dust, you hear us (and the Confederate patriot anthem)?
As we la la la through the strength of women, et cetera, comes Monroe Tracy, a Confederate soldier who was also Julia’s dead (missing?) husband’s comrade. Monroe is here to pass on her husband’s final bequest to her, and he’s a stereotypical Confederate soldier – lay on the charm thick, noble, hurting (damn you Yankees!), and sparks fly slowly between he and Julia.
Of course this is a happy story, so you can probably guess all the upcoming “surprise twists” and “unexpected visitors” for Claire’s wedding. I guess I can say that this is a story about strength and optimism, but I can’t overlook the fact that these women are throwing away the last of their meager possessions for a wedding dress. Practical? It’s like selling one’s kidney for an extra extension in the house to spite the neighbors.
Still, the characters are pleasant. The romance lacks sparks, but is readable enough. But everything comes together in a pleasantly fuzzy haze that I can barely remember the moment I put down this book. More memorable is the really annoying over-the-top sentimentalism and glorification of Southern Confederate values. I can easily see some readers falling into sugar shock. Those not into Confederate sentimentalism may even say some rather nasty things to this whole schlock.
In the end, it’s like watching a pompous Glory of the South reenactment by die-hard Southerners. Some may be touched and wave lil’ Confederate flags zealously, but others, like me, may just roll our eyes in bewilderment. Seriously, though – the last of your earthly possessions for a wedding dress?