Review of “Meet Me in Monaco” by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Gaynor, Hazel, and Heather Webb. Meet Me in Monaco. New York: William Morrow, 2019.

Paperback | $16.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062885364 | 358 pages | Historical Fiction

5 stars

Meet Me in Monaco was one of my most anticipated books of the year, after ranking Gaynor and Webb’s previous collaboration, Last Christmas in Paris, as the best read of 2017 (and possibly one of the best of all time), and while I was unfortunately not brought to tears in any of the tense moments of uncertainty or when the inevitable moments of the characters grieving hit this time, I did find myself just as invested, devouring this one, once again, like Last Christmas, in a single afternoon.

Gaynor and Webb once again manage to recreate the historical atmosphere beautifully, transporting the reader this time to the media circus of Grace Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier. I was in awe of all the details and how public it all was, especially given that I knew only the bare-bones facts that attract the average person to her narrative, as the authors make note of in their historical note in the parallels between Grace and both Princess Diana and Meghan Markle. But, as the story is told through the eyes of fairly normal people, I love how it allows Grace’s personality to show through in a way that isn’t clouded by pretense, since both James and Sophie have such unique interactions with her, even while it is juxtaposed by the occasional headline from the self-professed Grace fangirl reporter.

Sophie and James’ relationship is compelling, and it’s beautiful to see how they went from meeting in a rather inauspicious way to falling in love. And while there are odds stacked against them, I could not help but root for them. And ultimately, while this is a romance with a happy ending, I like how it also allowed for character growth and acknowledgment of the problems keeping them apart, before Grace once again (in a way) brought them back together.

Ultimately, I finished this book satisfied, yet longing to know if Gaynor and Webb would release another collaboration, because there’s something about their work together that is just pure magic, and the best romantic historical fiction I’ve ever read. I heartily recommend this one to pretty much everyone, but especially historical fiction fans and lovers of royalty and Hollywood stories.

Review of “The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding” by Jennifer Robson

Robson, Jennifer. The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding. New York: William Morrow, 2019.

Paperback | $16.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062674951 | 387 pages | Historical Ficition

4 stars

The Gown is a unique book for our Royals-obsessed society in that it focuses only peripherally on the Royals themselves, putting the then-Princess Elizabeth’s iconic wedding gown in center stage, and giving voices not only to the women seamstresses who worked on it, but also to women in the postwar period in a more general sense with poignant detail.

I loved how both Ann and Miriam were shaped by their past tragedies, and that’s what brings them together in the book. Both face difficulties, Miriam due to her Jewish heritage and as a survivor of the Holocaust and Ann due to having lost her parents and in the narrative itself by being duped by a man she believed had an interest in her. And I thought it was powerful that, even though circumstances led the two women to part, the friendship clearly had a deep impact on them, forming the motivation for the modern story follwing Ann’s granddaughter, Heather.

I wasn’t as invested in Heather’s story, although I did feel that some of her emotions were relatable, if a bit cliche for this type of book: finding out your grandmother kept a secret from you and feeling compelled to explore it. However, I did like when she finally met with Miriam, re-forging the connection broken off decades earlier.

The Gown is a history-rich book not just about Elizabeth II’s wedding gown, but about post-World War II life, particularly for women. It is a must-read that I recommend not just for the Royal watchers to whom I suspect it’s been promoted to (given its release on the heels of the 2018 weddings of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, respectively, and the brief mentions of various Royal Family members throughout the text itself, but to any reader of historical fiction looking for something new and slightly different.