Written by Sheri Holman
Published by Ballantine Books
Review by Paula Day
For lovers of historical thrillers, The Dress Lodger is the novel for you. Bold, sassy, at times dark, sinister, and disturbing, it is the story of a young dress lodger–a prostitute who solicits eager men while wearing a rented fancy gown owned by her landlord, who is also her pimp. During the Cholera epidemic in 1831, young Gustine bravely endures the distresses that life has sent her way because she needs to support her sickly son. She befriends Dr. Henry Chiver, who has his own problems during the Cholera epidemic. It is a time of great superstition, and the medical profession is the subject of great suspicion. Together, and then separately, Gustine and Henry work to save her son, and they are caught up in a whirlwind of circumstances that will leave your head whirling as you begin to put the pieces of this gothic puzzle together.
The narration is intrusive in a Dickensian way, Gentle Reader, but it is understood and even appreciated by the end of the novel. Well written and cleverly articulated, The Dress Lodger is an amazing trip back to 1830s England, with its soot and its rivers and its eclectic cast of characters. Anyone who enjoys the works of Charles Dickens, has an interest in pre-Victorian England, or just loves an engrossing historical novel will enjoy The Dress Lodger.
Paula Day is the Review Editor of The Copperfield Review and the managing editor of Copperfield Press. She lives in Los Angeles, California.