Title: The Hatmaker’s Heart by Carla Stewart
Genre: Historical, Christian, Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
For Nell Marchwold, bliss is seeing the transformation when someone gets a glimpse in the mirror while wearing one of her creations and feels beautiful. Nell has always strived to create hats that bring out a woman’s best qualities. She knows she’s fortunate to have landed a job as an apprentice designer at the prominent Oscar Fields Millinery in New York City. Yet when Nell’s fresh designs begin to catch on, her boss holds her back from the limelight, claiming the stutter she’s had since childhood reflects poorly on her and his salon.
But it seems Nell’s gift won’t be hidden by Oscar’s efforts. Soon an up-and-coming fashion designer is seeking her out as a partner of his 1922 collection. The publicity leads to an opportunity for Nell to make hats in London for a royal wedding. There, she sees her childhood friend, Quentin, and an unexpected spark kindles between them. But thanks to her success, Oscar is determined to keep her. As her heart tugs in two directions, Nell must decide what she is willing to sacrifice for her dream, and what her dream truly is.
In The Hatmaker’s Heart, Carla Stewart whisks readers back to the Roaring Twenties and into the cutthroat world of hat designing. Nell Marchwold’s gorgeous creations dazzle an influential client and leads to extraordinary opportunities for the talented young designer. However her ambitious and overbearing boss refuses to acknowledge her achievements and goes to extreme lengths to keep her from leaving her position at his millinery.
An interesting blend of old fashioned values and forward thinking, Nell is a fascinating character. A truly gifted designer with an uncanny ability to create hats that highlight women’s inner and outer beauty, Nell’s struggles to establish a career in a male-dominated field are hindered by both the time period and unscrupulous shop owner Oscar Fields. Further hampering her efforts is her lifelong stutter which worsens when Nell is in stressful situations. As she undergoes unorthodox but highly effective therapy for her speech difficulties, Nell’s career begins to blossom when a rising fashion designer selects her to design hats for his upcoming fashion collection. This leads to a stunning chance to return to England for a short period of time and when she becomes reacquainted with a close childhood friend, Nell begins to question what is really important in life.
While The Hatmaker’s Heart mostly takes place in the design studio, key historical elements are briefly incorporated in the storyline. Nell’s boss is rather despicable but he is a fairly accurate reflection of men in the workplace and the time period in general. Nell’s visit to a speakeasy provides an intriguing glimpse into the criminal enterprises that began to surface during prohibition. The colorful cast of secondary characters highlights the changes in fashion and the emergence of new slang. This younger generation also demonstrates the growing shift of young women pursuing higher education and careers rather than marriage.
Carla Stewart brings The Hatmaker’s Heart vibrantly to life with a fascinating time period selection, a vivid cast of appealing characters and a unique storyline. It is a fast-paced and engaging novel that fans of faith-based historical fiction are sure to enjoy.