The Costumier’s Gift by Vicky Adin
Publication Date: May 24, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
Why does a stranger hold the key to unlocking Katie’s family secrets?
1903 – Jane is the talented principal costumier at Auckland’s Opera House in its Edwardian heyday. She thrives in this place where she can hide from her pain and keep her skeletons to herself – until the past comes back to haunt her. Brigid, her beloved foster mother, and her best friend Gwenna are anchors in her solitary yet rewarding life. As the decades go by, the burden of carrying secrets becomes too great, and Jane must pass on the hidden truths.
Today – Katie seeks refuge from her crumbling personal life with her grandmother, who lives in past with the people in her cherished photographs. All too soon, Katie learns she must identify the people behind the gentle smiles – including the Edwardian woman to whom she bears a remarkable resemblance – and reveal generations of secrets before she can claim her inheritance. She meets the intriguing Jared, who stirs her interest, but she’s not ready for any sort of romance, so is shocked when she learns that he holds the key to discovering her past.
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Jane loved the early mornings, when she could move around her top-floor workshop at the Opera House before anyone else arrived. She would compare progress against the numerous sketches pinned to the walls and inspect the elaborate costumes draping the mannequins. She could touch the rich fabrics laid out on the table ready for cutting and check the accessory trays holding the beads, threads and feathers used to adorn the finished outfits.
But the nights, when she let down her silky dark hair and dressed in her richly coloured and beaded silk wrap – making her feel like one of her exotic characters – was when she did her best work. With pencil in hand she would sketch gown after gown, suit after suit: sometimes total fantasy, sometimes glamorous, sometimes whimsical.
Where the ideas came from even Jane couldn’t explain, and she often had no idea which design would work best for which show, but her pile of drawings had not let her down so far. Somewhere deep inside, she held the dream that one day she might become a famous designer for someone like the House of Worth, but meanwhile Jane couldn’t be happier. On occasions, she even had the temerity to sell a few of the more fashionable designs under the name of Bernadette, and particularly during ball season. A secret she kept to herself.
The dress was one of Jane’s fantasy dresses made of multi-coloured gauzes she’d dyed in shades of deep purple, navy and green decorated with silver sparkles. The facemask and headdress she was working on in the quiet of the empty studio would need to be as elaborate. She’d already hand-dyed heavy stockings to match so the dancer would be head-to-toe in underwater colours as Jane imagined them. Her late-night scribbles came to life when a body filled the contours of the design and Jane’s heart lifted at the sight. The concoction was perfect, if a little large for Grace.
“It’s beautiful,” said Grace as she swished and sashayed and danced about the empty workshop. The girl’s excited laughter echoed through the room. A tingle ran down Jane’s spine. She must not let Grace get too involved with the theatre. This was no place for the girl despite her love of music.
Brigid was teaching the girls to make traditional Irish lace and to sew, and Sally was showing them how run a business. Grace’s and Lilly’s futures lay there. And, now Brigid had finally accepted Phillip Harrison-Browne’s invitation to visit his department store in Brisbane, maybe one of them would find a future over there instead. All these thoughts flashed through Jane’s mind in the split second it took for Grace to leap into the air, spin and crash into a rack of costumes being prepared for the next production. Over it went, dragging costumes on the adjacent rack to the floor as Grace rolled amongst the muddle. Behind, other racks rocked precariously as more costumes on their hangers slid to the floor to add to the jumble.
“Are you all right, Grace?” called Jane as she raced across to where Grace now sat nursing her ankle. Lilly nodded, as a tear slid down her cheek.
“Oh, my dear girl. I’m sure it does, my sweet. Now let’s get you out of this mess and I’ll go find something to make a cool compress and see if I can borrow a stick to help you walk.”
Jane reached out her hand to help Grace to her feet and almost dropped the girl. Exposed by the disarray, a pair of men’s boots peeked out from under a mound of fabric. An involuntary gasp escaped her lips. Still supporting Grace, balanced on one foot, Jane peered into the gloomy corner.
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Multi-award winning historical fiction author, Vicky Adin is a genealogist in love with history and words.
After decades of research Vicky has combined her skills to weave family stories and history together in a way that brings the past to life.
Fascinated by the 19th Century women who undertook hazardous journeys to find a better life, Vicky draws her characters from real life stories: characters such as Brigid, the Irish lacemaker and Gwenna, the Welsh confectioner, or Megan who discovers much about herself when she traces her family tree in The Cornish Knot.
Vicky Adin holds a MA(Hons) in English and Education. She is an avid reader of historical novels, family sagas and contemporary women’s stories and enjoys travelling. Her writing has been compared to that Catherine Cookson.
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