I’ve read Carolyn Brown’s books before and enjoyed the combination of irreverent humor and southern charm her characters always display, so when I saw The Perfect Dress was about three women who operate a plus-sized custom bridal shop, I picked it up looking for a fun, light-hearted read.
What I got was three women who honestly seem to despise themselves. Jody hates herself for caving to pressure from a man and going vegan to diet into thinness (spoiler; the guy leaves her for a younger model anyway), Paula hates herself for falling for a man without checking him out first (spoiler; he was married) and Mitzi, the main heroine of this story, claims to be body confident but won’t let her love interest see her in a swimsuit - she doesn’t even OWN a swimsuit. The hero’s teenage daughters are frankly too good to be true and are written like no teenagers who exist in this day and age - they barely touch their phones, for starters.
If you have even the ghost of a decent relationship with your mother, you’ll be horrified by how mothers are portrayed in this book. Every single character’s biological mother is either sainted (dead) or an absolutely horrible person who seems to live to torture her children. The single older female character who’s portrayed in a positive light is Mitzi’s grandmother, who’s a hoot but I’m pretty sure is the author’s self-insert.
Mitzi and Graham’s romance could have been interesting, but every time we got a scene between the two of them, the story promptly derailed into Paula and Jody’s angst. This needed to be a series of three books, one for each of the three women, rather than rushing through and shoving everyone into a happy-ending-shaped slot. The constant PoV changes very quickly started to irritate me, because every time I put the book down even to get a snack or a drink, I had to spend several minutes checking back to see whose point of view I was in when I picked back up. It’s a hot mess and a competent editor should have done a LOT of cleaning up to make things easier for the reader to follow.
There are good parts to the story - the humor and sly Southern charm is present in full force, as well as the scene-setting that really does feel like a small Texas town. Ultimately, though, I was disappointed. Two stars.
The Perfect Dress is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.