My book club chose Nine Women, One Dress (2016) by Jane L. Rosen as our latest book. It looked like a short and easy read, and I was hopeful that I would enjoy it. You can probably get a good guess at the plot from the title. There is one little, black dress of the season that significantly affects nine women’s lives. Some of the stories were entertaining, and Rosen did a good job of weaving the dress through her characters’ lives. I really enjoyed the beginning of this book. However, as the book wore on, I found it more difficult to keep reading. The whole thing reminded me of Love Actually. There were a ton of characters and not enough time was spent on any of them. Many of the characters felt two-dimensional and I never got emotionally invested in any of them or their stories. It’s not a bad book to pass some time, I guess, but I was never excited by it.
The book begins with a young Southern woman, new to New York City, about to step out on the runway, modeling a little black dress that is sure to catch the attention of everyone and become the it dress of the season. The subsequent chapters show different characters wearing or getting the dress and generally (but not always) romantic things happening to them. One particular dress makes its way to a number of different characters when it is returned to Bloomingdale’s and sold again, but it isn’t always the exact dress.
Natalie is a sales girl at Bloomingdale’s when she is drafted as an emergency date to a movie star. She borrows the little, black dress to wear. The two hit it off but Natalie thinks her date is gay, which is why she is so immediately comfortable with him. They continue to spend time with each other and become close friends–I found this whole story line difficult to believe. How can you spend that much time with someone and not talk about your sexuality, or even your exes?
Felicia is a secretary/assistant and she has been in love with her boss for the past seventeen years. For most of those years, her boss was married to a wonderful woman, but his wife passed away. Now he’s dating an obnoxious, young woman whom his children don’t even like. When he comes to Bloomingdale’s to shop for a birthday gift for his secretary and a “two month anniversary” gift for his girlfriend, an interfering salesperson takes it upon himself to get the right people together. I thought Rosen eventually did well with part of this story. She explains why Felicia’s boss ended up with someone so young and obnoxious, and she gives enough information that the young woman is actually worthy of compassion rather than scorn. But I also felt that this story had the potential to be very sweet and romantic, and Rosen did not fulfill my expectations.
The third anchor story involves Andie, a divorcee who has given up on love. After her split from her husband, she became a private detective in a desperate attempt to make ends meet. She now follows men around, gathering evidence on their cheating ways. When she falls for one of her targets, all kinds of ethical issues ensue.
I feel like each story, on its own, could have been interesting with more detail and character development. Instead, there were missing or confusing details that took me out of each story. It was too coincidental and silly to feel real, and it wasn’t engaging enough for me to forgive and forget all of the details that I found distracting. For what it’s worth, most of my book club had a good time with this book. I was probably the most critical of the ones who’d read it.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.