By: M.A. McLaughlin
Publisher: Alcove Press
Publication Date: February 6, 2024
Review Date: October 27, 2023
The Lost Dresses by M.A. McLaughlin is an engaging historical tale that showcases one of the Victorian age’s noted poets, Christina Rossetti.
In 1864 Verona, Italy, Christina Rossetti returns to her family’s homeland with great expectations. Her hope is to wash away her unfulfilling life and poetry career in England and embrace a new chapter in her life. Perchance, she has an exchange with an old family friend and finds a gift her father once gave her. It is a precious box with three distinct Muses carved into the lid. Curious, she puzzles over how to open the mysterious box and finds a secret compartment. Inside, there is a letter from her beloved father with a request to carry on his wishes of something he was unable to do in his lifetime.
Fast forward to Verona, 1947, and Marianne Baxter is traveling from her Boston home to post-war Verona for the opportunity of a lifetime. She is an accomplished textile historian, and the purpose of the trip is to see three exquisite Victorian dresses that were once owned by the famous poet Christina Rossetti. Apparently, the dresses had been hidden away in a trunk for nearly a century and most recently discovered at the Fondazione Museo Menigatti. Given Marianne’s exceptional knowledge and expertise, it only makes sense she would be the chosen one to bring the dresses to life once more for the purpose of putting this incredible find on display. Still grieving from the loss of her husband Paul, there’s a part of this trip that gives her hope to start over. However, once in Verona and at the Fondazione Museo Menigatti, the rather handsome and debonaire owner is not exactly the most welcoming. Compounded by his icy reception and her first inspection of the dresses, Marianne discovers a mysterious letter with a daunting warning that was hidden among the dresses. It alludes to a pendant and stolen book that must be returned, that is a connection between Marianne and Christina which ultimately triggers more questions than answers.
M.A. McLaughlin has done a superb job of showing wonderful historical accounts of the famed Victorian-era poet, Christina Rossetti. The stunning scenes of the beautiful backdrop of Verona set the tone for believable dialogue and the reader is easily transported to a romantic period of time of days gone by. McLaughlin has precision focus when detailing and developing Marianne’s character as an accomplished textile historian. "...Holding my breath as we moved closer, I finally stood in front of it, gazing down at its contents, neatly folded garments within the frayed brocade interior. With my fingertips, I lifted the blue poplin walking dress on top and noted that a layer of white silk separated it from the one beneath it, preserving them from each other..." (pg. 27) What an enchanting read this is. In addition, M.A. McLaughlin delivers a zinger of a plot twist at the end which is another reason why The Lost Dresses is a must-read!
Quill says: The Lost Dresses is a wonderful journey that enlightens the reader with the rich history of one of the Victorian era’s most noted poets, Christina Rossetti.
For more information on The Lost Dresses: A Novel, please visit the author's website at: martyambrose.com/