|Clothes-Pegs / Susan Scarlett
London: Dean Street Press, 2022, c1939.
This is a reprint of the first romance by Susan Scarlett, the pen name of well known author Noel Streatfield. She wrote a dozen romances under this name, and I was obviously drawn to this one!
It's the story of Annabel Brown, a nice girl from a middle class English family who works as a seamstress at Bertna's, a higher end fashion house, to help with family finances. Annabel is also young, slender and lovely, which works in her favour when one of the mannequins (models) from downstairs quits, and the owner needs a quick substitution. She decides to pull Annabel from the sewing room to the front lines, so to speak, and gives her a quick training to become of one of the four models showing off new collections.
Two of these models are catty, the other is fairly mysterious but kind to Annabel. And on one of Annabel's first turns in her new job, she sees wealthy Lord David de Bett in the audience and falls for him at first sight. Of course she also catches his eye, despite the fact that he's there with the Honourable Octavia Glaye, who isn't very honourable in real life; she is really quite awful! This scene reminds me a little of the beginning of The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz.
A cross-class romance ensues, with ups and downs and misunderstandings, as in all good romance novels. But Annabel's goodness overcomes class lines, as well as David's obsession with the madonna/whore complex. He is the sticking point in this book for me; he's not good enough for Annabel, jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions about Annabel near the end and only relenting when he finds out the truth accidentally from someone else. It felt a little icky for a reader of today, really. Other than his character, though, this story was charming - the Brown family is the heart of it and Annabel's work as a seamstress and as a mannequin are both frothy with clothing description and the way clothes make a woman feel. Bertna's was a delight to read about and while the romance felt a little clunky, the rest of it - especially the family interactions - was enjoyable and engaging. Definitely worth a look. I found this one through my library's online collection so perhaps you will be able to as well!