REVIEW: The Seamstress on Cider Lane by Jillianne Hamilton
The Germans pause their bombing raids on London but life on the homefront is certainly far from ordinary. The Seamstress on Cider Lane is a lighthearted and hopeful romance, perfect for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Last Bookshop in London.
Gifted seamstress Nora Archer opens a sewing shop just as clothing becomes rationed and scarce in Britain. London’s fashionable elites soon discover her remarkable talent for giving garments new life and her skills are soon in high demand.
Having lost his flat during the Blitz, Jack Parker is relieved to finally locate a new home. He finds himself living under the same roof as Nora, the spirited and enchanting woman he thought he’d lost, as well as Nora’s protective aunt.
Despite her aunt’s warnings, Nora can’t help falling for Jack. However, the sweet and bookish teacher is from a different world and Nora doesn’t know if she fits in or if Jack might be too good to be true. She can’t deny the intense attraction between herself and Jack—and neither of them wants to.
When a struggling friend’s desperate plea for help lures Nora into the dodgy clothing black market, she risks not only her business and reputation but also her blossoming relationship with Jack.
Will Jack and Nora’s wartime romance survive when Nora’s secrets are revealed?
Dear Ms. Hamilton,
Well this makes two good books in a row. Nora made such a good impression on me in the first book, The Hobby Shop on Barnaby Street that I had my fingers crossed when I started her story. There’s some angst, a lot of happiness, a beagle puppy, and a bit of delicious comeuppance for more than a few people but trust me, they had it coming.
Nora Archer has always wanted her own design shop but without the start-up money and with retail space being in short supply in blitzed London, she’s put that dream off. But when the place where she works is bombed and her aunt offers a loan, “Archer Fashion and Tailoring” is born. Teacher Jack Parker has wondered why the lovely young woman he met and danced one evening with never responded to his letters. When he moves to a new attic flat closer to the school where the war department decided he would be better utilized instead of being shot at by the Jerries, imagine his surprise and delight when he realizes Nora lives there, too. Their feelings immediately begin to spark but there’s more than just Nora’s aunt’s proprieties standing in the way of their HEA.
So once again we’re in wartime London. Nora’s new store is going to have to deal with the newly started clothing rationing and coupons – imagine! says one customer, starting it so quickly with so little lead time – so she will mainly be repairing, repurposing, and mending for her customers. When a childhood friend arrives and Nora sees how bleak Irene is looking, she offers her friend some mending to do to help the woman make ends meet. A few days later Irene arrives with a proposition that I was astounded to see as part of the story but given the circumstances, it makes perfect sense even if Nora maybe shouldn’t have taken Irene up on it.
Jack’s heart has always been in research (17th and 18th century) but after he tried to sign up for the war effort, it was decided that London’s children needed a teacher more than the Army needed another warm body to be shot at. Jack admits he isn’t the best at the job but he does know how to handle the thing that one snotty brat brings into class. Jack does like Marvin though and once he sees who Marvin’s cousin is, he likes things a lot more.
One thing I really like about this series is how things that would usually become Big Ticking Bomb Misunderstandings that I would normally wait to see explode are dealt with fairly quickly. Nora and Jack are getting along well but Nora had one posh prat treat her badly so when she discovers who Jack’s family is and how much money they have, she is concerned. Then along comes Mr. Weasel to a party but lo and behold it doesn’t become a future issue. Rather Jack sees that the creep has upset Nora who Tells Jack All after which Jack offers to take revenge on him for her. Bravo Jack and yay that these people talk to each other.
But even if they talk, that doesn’t mean that things are immediately perfect. Nora admits that she trusts Jack – well, after a time or two when his family keep pushing a young deb at him – but realizes that she’s still a bit fragile and needs time to quell her insecurities which is totally understandable. Jack has family troubles in that he’s a step-son of his wealthy step-father and he knows that his younger brother is the Golden Child. Even after all these years – and Jack is treated well by the family – he knows he’s second best. When Some Things Happen – both to Nora and in Jack’s family – they have to deal with the potential fallout. I was delighted that Jack takes an internal stand for what he really wants out of life.
After the way the War Issue was resolved in book one, I admit to being surprised that this time it is different. The full weight of it will be brought to bear and Nora faces real and lasting consequences. Jack might be forced to act one way but Nora’s Aunt’s reaction startled me as did her quick turnabout. That didn’t seem like the character I’d watched take Nora’s side all along. The way that Jack learns what Nora risked and whom she covered for and then ensures that those people make amends is satisfying.
I’m now looking forward to book three and the set up promises to be sweet payback based on how a character acts in this book. I would love to see a follow up Next Gen book with Marvin and Ginger the Beagle in it. Please? A-