Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Book Review: Torn by Rowenna Miller

Hi All!

Abby here with something a bit different for you today. A few weeks ago we were contacted by a publisher regarding fellow blogger, historic costumer, and reenactor - Rowenna Miller's new book, Torn which is the first in a historical/fantasy series inspired by the events of the French Revolution. As a newly published author, Hoosier, and supporter of Rowenna (and a fan of historical fiction - fantasy or not!) -- I was happy to receive an early copy of the book to read and review for the blog-o-sphere.

Here's the cover of Rowenna's first book - Torn. 

The book focuses on milliner/mantua-maker/seamstress Sophie Balstrade who lives in the capital city of Galitha. She's worked her rump off making a career for herself despite unfavorable odds of being of Pellian descent (a minority group that have immigrated to the country of Galitha and also have their own decently sized immigrant quarter in Galitha City) and her relationship with her brother, a right proper Enjolras from Les Miserable, named Kristos.

While dealing with the constant revolutionary discussions that occur between Sophie's brother and his friends, she's busy trying to grow her business and expand into the much desired nobility customer base. Her reputation gets her an 'in' with the pseudo Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun character (that's how I envisioned her anyways), that is incredibly warm and hospitable to our protagonist in a way that is a bit jarring. From there, Sophie's life just becomes a fabric filled cluster of super highs and super lows, all while trying to navigate what is an incredibly stressful and delicate situation. Where does her loyalty lie? How can she protect her business, her life, and the livelihood of her employees? Why is her brother so damn confusing?

Enjolras/Kristos getting their revolution on....

Obviously, I don't want to give away the plot, but give a review instead. First, I want to say that I am incredibly proud and excited for Rowenna's first publication, not just as a fellow Hoosier, but because she is a blogger and reenactor, too. She's a part of this wonderful community that has developed on line, and Lauren and I strongly believe in supporting our peers in their endeavors.

To get to the point - I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series, but I can't say that this first book was the quickest of reads. It did take a while for me to really grow attached to the characters, and I felt like the book was repetitive and slow moving through a good chunk of the 436 pages. Since we were sent advance copies, I am unsure if there was more editing to be done, or other changes, because there was a note in the book about how some of the material may not appear in the finished book, so my critique could be null and void now with the finished version out. Once we were able to get some good plot & character development going, the last part of the book was really quite enjoyable, suspenseful, and exciting - which is why I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book.

The other little issue, that is probably entirely my own since I'm well versed in 18th century history, is that I spent wayyyyy too much time figuring out who Rowenna based her characters off of from historical record. Knowing that book takes some inspiration from the French Revolution, every new character (especially the nobility) that was introduced resulted in me comparing them to their potential historical counterparts - which really affected my ability to enjoy the story for what it is. Again - I think that might be entirely my own issue - but if you're inclined to do this too, I would strongly suggest that you stop yourself. 😂

Self-Portrait with Cerise Ribbons, Elisabeth VigĂ©e  Le Brun, 1782, Kimball Art Museum (Texas) ACK 1949.02
Finally, I just want to reiterate how excited I am for Rowenna for this massive accomplishment - writing a book is extremely hard work, and to get one book published is an incredible accomplishment - let alone an entire series planned out! So, a HUGE HUGE congratulations to Rowenna for the publication of her first novel! It was a fun read & I'm looking forward to the next installment (...and I'm grateful that it wont take as long a certain George R.R. Martin is taking with his next book...ahem ahem ahem...)

If you would like to read Torn by Rowenna Miller - you can get yours on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and probably any local bookstore.

If you want to visit Rowenna's author page click Here and her blog is Hyaline Prosaic.

CONGRATULATIONS ROWENNA!!! 





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Friday, March 9, 2018

Podcast Episode 16 - Corsets, Broadway, and Owning Your Own Costuming Business with Cynthia Settje of RedThreaded

Hi All!

We're so excited about today's episode of Fashion History with American Duchess, because we finally got to sit down with Cynthia of RedThreaded to pick her brain about patterning corsets, working for Broadway productions, and starting/running her own business!

Cynthia's story is one that we both find incredibly inspiring and a testament to how wonderful the costuming community is, women run businesses, and how us 'wee' millennials were able to take a terrible situation and make the best of it.

Cynthia in her jaw dropping Worth reproduction dress. Photo by Merritt Portrait Studio. 

If you are a young person who is getting ready to graduate from school and trying to figure out what to do next, or you're looking for a career change, want to go into business for yourself, etc., this is a great episode for you!

We hope you enjoy this episode, and we cannot wait to collaborate with Cynthia in the future (hint) - and we'll be posting our reviews of our Redthreaded Atelier corsets very soon (spoiler: we love them!)

Follow the links if you want to follow RedThreaded on Instagram or Facebook!

Thanks for listening! :D


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