Book Review: The Dress Shop on King Street

7 Jan

I love it when the new year starts out with an excellent book! The Dress Shop on King Street by Ashley Clark checked all the boxes — lovely characters, interesting historical details, a plot that kept me engaged. It is a 5-star if ever I have read one!


Harper Dupree has pinned all her hopes on a future in fashion design. But when it comes crashing down around her, she returns home to Fairhope, Alabama, and to Millie, the woman who first taught her how to sew. As Harper rethinks her own future, long-hidden secrets about Millie’s past are brought to light.

In 1946, Millie Middleton — the daughter of an Italian man and a Black woman —  boarded a train and left Charleston to keep half of her heritage hidden. She carried with her two heirloom buttons and the dream of owning a dress store. She never expected to meet a charming train jumper who changed her life forever . . . and led her yet again to a heartbreaking choice about which heritage would define her future.

Now, together, Harper and Millie return to Charleston to find the man who may hold the answers they seek . . . and a chance at the dress shop they’ve both dreamed of. But it’s not until all appears lost that they see the unexpected ways to mend what frayed between the seams.

Ashley Clark in her own words:

I write romantic women’s fiction set in the South, and The Dress Shop on King Street is my debut novel. I have a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and enjoy teaching literature and writing courses as an adjunct. I’ve been an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers for almost decade! When I’m not writing, I’m re-watching You’ve Got Mail, dreaming of Charleston, and drinking all the English Breakfast tea I can get my hands on.

My journey to publication took ten years, so I am a huge believer that sometimes God-dreams can take a while to grow, and that’s really what The Dress Shop on King Street is all about. If you, too, are holding a dream that feels invisible or altogether gone, I hope you’ll come away encouraged that perhaps you are simply in a mending season, where God is still strengthening your dream at the seams.


My Impressions:

It is a rare occurrence to find a debut novel that gives the impression that the author has been published for decades, but The Dress Shop on King Street is just such a book. Complexly plotted with settings that came alive for this reader, its characterization is what won me over. I could not get enough of Millie and Franklin and Harper and Peter. Set against the backdrop of the American South in the 1940s to the present, the book grabbed me from the get-go and refused to let me go after the last page was turned. What a great way to start 2021!

The Dress Shop on King Street is a dual timeline novel. It follows Millie Middleton a biracial woman who passes for white. Clark does an admirable job of re-creating the racial tensions/violence that followed Millie from the 1940s to the present. Stuck between two heritages, Millie does her best to live up to the promises she makes to her mother when she leaves Charleston for the safety of Fairhope, Alabama. I loved Millie’s character so much. Clark made her experiences personal for this white woman of 2021. All of the main characters are wonderful, though, with each having very endearing qualities and very real flaws. Charleston and Fairhope were vividly described in their past beauty and ugliness and their present-day reality. Identity is a big theme — what makes us who we are and our response to our heritage. Dreams and aspirations are also explored, as characters grapple with going ahead and letting go. A faith message is subtly woven throughout the narrative. One passage late in the book really grabbed me. Millie has a hard time believing that God is more capable of managing her life than she is. I can really relate to that!

If you are looking for an excellent way to start out your new year reading, then consider The Dress Shop on King Street. I loved that 2021 started out with a 5-star novel!

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)




2 Responses to “Book Review: The Dress Shop on King Street”

  1. Paula Shreckhise January 7, 2021 at 8:17 am #

    Fabulous review for a fabulous book. I loved it and can’t wait for the next book!

    • rbclibrary January 7, 2021 at 8:36 am #

      Thanks so much, Paula! I can’t wait either.

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