A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer. 2010. June 2010. Bethany House. 352 pages.
"Red? Have you no shame, Auntie Vic? You can't be buried in a scarlet gown."
A Tailor-Made Bride is set in 1881.
Our heroine, Hannah Richards, is a seamstress, a dressmaker, who has been given a unique opportunity--she couldn't have dreamed of a better opportunity. One of her crankier patrons has left a piece of property to her, along with money to set up a dress shop of her own. This property is located in a small Texas town. Her arrival in town upsets a few folks--most especially Jericho "J.T." Tucker, who had hopes of buying this property.
Tucker has no use--at all--for those interested (even slightly) in fashion and finery. He is carrying a great big grudge--associating all women with his mother. To his reckoning, a woman can't be genuine, can't be kind, can't be godly, if she cares about her wardrobe at all. A well-dressed woman, in his opinion, is a deceptive one. Though J.T. is cranky, he does his duty by her. He helps her when she needs help. (He introduces her to his sister, Cordelia, a young woman who is in need of a friend, in need of some female advice too.) Though neither has a good impression of the other--these two, J.T. and Hannah--can't seem to help being drawn together time and time again. Slowly, J.T. sees that everything he's been thinking about women is wrong, wrong, wrong. Perhaps he doesn't know everything after all. Can Hannah and J.T. make a match of it?
First, I'd like to start with what I liked about the novel. I really did enjoy the romance between J.T. and Hannah. I liked the tension between them. How it took some time to get over misconceptions and prejudices. I liked that their relationship had to develop. I also appreciated many of the minor characters in this one. I liked this community, for the most part.
I had a two main issues with A Tailor-Made Bride. Both dealing with the inclusion of Warren, a "villainous" character with a birthmark. This one-dimensional character is perpetually angry and frustrated and lonely. What we do know about Warren is filtered through J.T's long held prejudices and Hannah's new-to-town observations. J.T. certainly puts the blame all on him--that it is Warren's own fault for not being more likeable, for not making an effort to fit in and be a part of the community. That if Warren would just "be a man" then his problems would be solved. Is it Warren's fault that he's friendless? Is it Warren's fault that he lacks the social skills needed to interact with the community? I'm not convinced it is.
Unless you *know* what it feels like to have a birthmark, unless you've lived your life with people looking at you, staring at you, pointing at you, unless you know what it feels like to be teased or ignored, unless you know what it feels like to be an outcast, to be the one always left out, then you have no idea at all. Even though the boys and girls that grew up with Warren are all grown now, memories aren't so easily forgiven and forgotten. Think about it, most of us have people we'd rather not see from our past--from our school days. Aren't there a few people that can make us feel small and insignificant no matter how much time has passed?
Not that I'm excusing Warren's behavior--he's presented as a creep, a villain, and he does in fact live up to this. He says things, he does things that are wrong, wrong, wrong. So I don't "like" Warren either. But still I think he was misused as a character. Which brings me to my second point. I do think his character is entirely unnecessary to the novel. (And unnecessary villains are a pet peeve of mine. As are unnecessary floods, fires, hurricanes and the like. Acts of nature designed to bring the stubborn hero and heroine together.) This novel has plenty of tension on its own. Plenty of conflicts without him. So in conclusion, if you're going to have a pointless villain, a one-dimensional villain, why give him a birthmark?
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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