On Sale: February 1, 2017
Trade Size / e-Book
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Contemporary | Historical
For readers of Lucinda Riley, Sarah Jio, or Susan Meissner,
this gripping historical debut novel tells the story of two
women: one, an immigrant seamstress who disappears from San
Francisco’s gritty streets in 1876, and the other, a young
woman in present day who must delve into the secrets of her
husband’s wealthy family only to discover that she and the
missing dressmaker might be connected in unexpected ways.
An exquisite ring, passed down through generations,
connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and
forgiveness is the key to freedom...
San Francisco: 1876
Immigrant dressmakers Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret
O'Brien struggle to provide food for their siblings, while
mending delicate clothing for the city's most affluent
ladies. When wealthy Lucas Havensworth enters the shop,
Hanna's future is altered forever. With Margaret's
encouragement and the power of a borrowed green dress, Hanna
dares to see herself as worthy of him. Then Margaret
disappears, and Hanna turns to Lucas. Braving the gritty
streets of the Barbary Coast and daring to enter the
mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stumbles upon Margaret’s fate,
forcing her to make a devastating decision...one that will
echo through the generations.
San Francisco: Present Day
In her elegant Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate
Bridge, Sarah Havensworth struggles to complete the novel
she quit her job for. Afraid to tell her husband of her
writer’s block, Sarah is also hiding a darker secret—one
that has haunted her for 14 years. Then a news headline from
1876 sparks inspiration: Missing Dressmakers Believed to
be Murdered. Compelled to discover what happened to
Hannelore and Margaret, Sarah returns to her roots as a
journalist. Will her beautiful heirloom engagement ring
uncover a connection to Hanna Schaeffer?
Behind the Book:
The Dressmaker’s Dowry
By Meredith Jaeger
On my honeymoon in Greece, overlooking the Aegean Sea, I opened a leather notebook, plotted out my novel and developed its characters. I have always been drawn to the gritty, dark underbelly of cities, and to the urban immigrant experience—particularly the lives of working-class Victorians, and the photojournalism of Jacob Riis.
With the sparkling blue expanse of ocean before me, I envisioned narrow cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, smoke-filled saloons, and the infamous Barbary Coast of 140 years ago, where citizens were murdered in the street.
It was my first vacation in years. I had been working long hours for a San Francisco startup while simultaneously planning my wedding. To have the freedom and space to let my words flow felt like sweet relief.
As a native of the Bay Area, I grew up across the water from “The City,” a place filled with artists and musicians, dive bars, quirky cafes and family-owned businesses. But walking to work in 2013, it became apparent to me that San Francisco had changed. I heard constant talk of apps, series C funding, and large tech companies setting up shop.
Did the influx of new residents have any idea that San Francisco has a rich and colorful history dating to before the time of Twitter? I wanted to paint a picture for them. Immigrants—Chinese, German, Irish, Dutch, and Mexican, built the bones of our bustling metropolis. These laborers lived a life far removed from the millionaires of Nob Hill. In fact, the San Francisco of 1876 mirrors the San Francisco of today: a place of magnificent wealth displayed against dire poverty.
I knew immediately that my character, Hannelore Schaeffer, would be a German immigrant. My father immigrated to California from Switzerland in the 1960s, the son of
German parents. He didn’t come from much, but his adventurous spirit shone like the gold flakes he panned from the Feather River. (He went on to earn his PhD in business from UC Berkeley, but always had a little bit of cowboy dust in his soul). Hanna would be poor, and she would have the drive to make a better life for herself in this precarious land of opportunity. Allowing Hanna fall for a businessman with a silver fortune from the Comstock Lode, I let class and societal differences to come into play.
My inspiration for Sarah Havensworth, Hanna’s present-day counterpart, came from my own heirloom engagement ring. When my husband proposed to me with a delicate cluster of diamonds from 1903, I fell in love—with him, with the beautiful piece of family jewelry, and with a story idea. What if I didn’t know whom this ring had once belonged to? (He assured me his great-aunt Peg was a very nice woman.) What if there was an incredible tale behind how the ring came to be passed down to me?
And so my novel unfolded. It wasn’t a stretch to make Sarah a writer like myself. And I had the advantage of being able to explore every street and alleyway that Hanna traversed in her frantic search for her missing friend, Margaret. I even stopped for beers at The Saloon, San Francisco’s oldest bar, which I’ve renamed The Tavern in The
Dressmaker’s Dowry. On my lunch break from work, I often wander around Jackson Square, a chic neighborhood in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid, admiring the brick buildings that used to be dance halls, secret opium dens and brothels. No matter how many startups move to San Francisco, its storied past will never be erased.
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