The New York Times bestseller from award-winning author Rachel Hauck!
Four brides. One dress. A tale of faith, redemption, and timeless love.
Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift—and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress—or feel certain she should marry Tim?
Then Charlotte purchases a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new, shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it?
Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history—and its new bride—begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the beauty of finding true love.
"Hauck weaves an intricately beautiful story centering around a wedding dress passed down through the years. Taken at face value, the tale is superlative, but considering the spiritual message both on the surface and between the lines, this novel is incredible. Readers will laugh, cry and treasure this book." —RT Book Reviews, TOP PICK! for The Wedding Dress
"Hauck seamlessly switches back and forth in this redeeming tale of a shop with healing powers for the soul. As Cora and Haley search for solace and love, they find peace in the community of the charming shop. Hauck succeeds at blending similar themes across the time periods, grounding the plot twists in the main characters’ search for redemption and a reinvigoration of their wavering faith. In the third of her winsome wedding-themed standalone novels, Hauck focuses on the power of community to heal a broken heart." —Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Rachel Hauck is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author of The Wedding Dress, which was also named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times and was a RITA finalist. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pet and writes from her ivory tower. Visit her online at RachelHauck.com; Facebook: RachelHauck; Twitter: @RachelHauck; Instagram: @rachelhauck.
Read an Excerpt
The WEDDING DRESS
By RACHEL HAUCK
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Rachel Hauck
All right reserved.
It was the breeze, a change in the texture of the unseen that made her look up and walk around a stand of shading beech trees. Charlotte paused on the manicured green of the Ludlow Estate for a pure, deep breath, observing the elements of the day—blue sky, spring trees, sunlight bouncing off the parked-car windshields.
She'd woken up this morning with the need to think, to pray, to get closer to heaven. She'd tugged on her favorite pair of shorts and driven up to the ridge.
But instead of solitude, Charlotte found her piece of Red Mountain busy and burdened with shoppers, seekers, and bargain hunters. The annual Ludlow antiques auction to raise money for the poor was in full force on the estate's luscious grounds.
Charlotte raised her sunglasses to the top of her head, resenting the intrusion. This was her personal sanctuary, even if the rest of the world didn't know it. Mama used to bring her here for picnics, parking on a gravel service road and sneaking Charlotte along the Ludlows' perimeter, laughing and whispering, "Shh," as if they were getting away with something fun and juicy.
She'd find a spot on the back side of a knoll, spread a blanket, open a bucket of chicken or a McDonald's bag, and exhale as she looked out over the valley toward the Magic City. "Isn't it beautiful?"
"Yep," Charlotte always said, but her eyes were on Mama, not Birmingham's lights. She was the most beautiful woman Charlotte had ever seen. And almost eighteen years after her death, she still was the most beautiful woman Charlotte had ever seen. Mama had a way of just being, but she died before she imparted that gift to Charlotte.
Shouts invaded Charlotte's memorial moment with Mama. Bidders and buyers moved in and out from under the auction tent spread across the side lawn.
Shading her eyes from the angled sunlight, Charlotte stood in the breeze, watching, deciding what to do. Go back home or walk the grounds? She didn't need or want anything that might be under that tent. Didn't have the money to buy even if she did.
What she needed was to think through—pray about—her recent tensions with Tim's family. His sister-in-law Katherine specifically. The whole mess challenged her to reconsider the leap she was about to make.
As Charlotte turned toward her car, the wind bumped her again and she glanced back. Through the trees and beyond the tent, the second-floor windows of the Ludlow stone-and-glass mansion shone with the golden morning light and appeared to be watching over the proceedings on the ground.
Then the wind shifted the light, a shadow passed over the window, and the house seemed to wink at her. Come and see ...
"Hey there." A lofty woman's voice caused Charlotte to turn around. "You're not leaving already, are you?" She lugged up the slope of the lawn with a box in her hands.
Charlotte recognized her. Not by name or face, but by aura. One of the classic Southern women that populated Birmingham. Ones with dewy skin, pressed slacks, cotton tops, and a modest string of pearls. She stopped by Charlotte, breathless.
"You've not even gone up to the auction tent. I saw you pull in, sweetie. Now, come on, we've beautiful items for auction. Is this your first time here?" She dipped into the box and pulled out a catalog. "Had to run to my car to get more. We're busy, busy this year. Well, you can see that by the cars. Remember now, all the proceeds go to the Ludlow Foundation. We give millions in grants and scholarships around the city."
"I've admired the foundation for quite a while." Charlotte flipped through the catalog.
"I'm Cleo Favorite, president of the Ludlow Foundation." She offered Charlotte her hand. "You're Charlotte Malone."
Charlotte regarded Cleo for a moment, slowly shaking the woman's hand. "Should I be impressed you know me or run screaming back to my car?"
Cleo smiled. Her teeth matched her pearls. "My niece was married last year."
"I see. She bought her dress from my shop?"
"She did, and for a while, I believed she was more excited about working with you than marrying her fiancé. Quite a business you have there."
"I've been very fortunate." More than any poor, orphaned girl dreamed. "Who is your niece?"
"Elizabeth Gunter. She married Dylan Huntington." Cleo started toward the tent. Charlotte followed so as not to be rude.
"Of course, I remember Elizabeth. She was a beautiful bride."
"And she wanted the whole wide world to know it." Cleo laughed with a pop of her hand against the breeze. "She darn near sent my brother to the poorhouse. But you only get married once, right?"
"I hear that's the idea." Charlotte touched her thumb to the shank of her engagement ring—the reason she'd driven up here today. She paused at the edge of the tent.
"So, Charlotte, are you looking for any particular item? Something for your shop?" Cleo dropped the box of catalogs on a table and started down the main aisle as if she expected Charlotte would follow. "We have some beautiful wardrobes for sale. The catalog tells you the lot number, when and where to bid. The auctioneer just moves to the piece. We found that to be easier than—well, what does any of that matter? It's a great auction and it runs smoothly. Tell me, what are you looking for?" Cleo tipped her head to one side and clasped her hands together at her waist.
Charlotte stepped under the tent's shade. "Actually, Cleo,"—I came up here to think—"my bridal shop is strictly contemporary." Charlotte rolled the catalog in her hand. "But I guess browsing is always fun." She could walk the aisles to think and pray, right?
"Why sure it is. You're bound to find something you like as you ... browse." Cleo winked. "It works best if you go ahead and give yourself permission to spend some of your hard-earned money."
"I'll keep that in mind."
Cleo trotted off and Charlotte picked a side aisle to wander, examining the pieces as if the answer she longed for might be lurking among the ancients and the antiques.
Maybe she'd hear, He's the one, as she passed a twentieth-century breakfront or a nineteenth-century wardrobe.
But probably not. Answers didn't often just appear to her out of the ethereal realm. Or drop on her suddenly. She worked for her life answers. Just rolled up her sleeves, evaluated the situation, calculated costs, and decided. She'd have never opened Malone & Co. otherwise.
Charlotte paused in front of a dark wood foyer table and traced her fingers over the surface. Gert had one like this in her foyer. Wonder what ever happened to it? Charlotte bent to see if the underside had been marked with a red magic marker.
It hadn't. Charlotte moved on. That table wasn't Gert's. Oh, she'd been so mad when she discovered her niece had run amuck with that red pen.
At the end of the aisle, Charlotte halted with a sigh. She should head back down to the city. Her hair appointment was in a few hours anyway.
Instead, she started down the next aisle, let her thoughts wander to Tim and the struggle in her heart.
Four months ago she'd been perfectly ensconced in her steady, predictable, comfortable day-to-day life. Then the contractor who remodeled her shop harangued her into accepting his Christmas dinner invitation. He seated her next to Tim Rose and changed Charlotte's life.
A dull, tired rolltop desk caught her eye. Charlotte stopped in front of it and smoothed her hand along the surface. If the grain could talk, what stories would it tell?
Of a husband figuring the family finances? Or of a child working through a homework problem? Of a mama writing a letter to the folks back home?
How many men and women sat at this desk? One or hundreds? What were their hopes and dreams?
One piece of furniture surviving time. Was that what she wanted? To survive, to be a part of something important?
She wanted to feel like she belonged to the Rose family. Katherine certainly didn't make Charlotte feel like a part of the gregarious collection of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and lifelong friends.
On their first date when Tim told Charlotte he had four brothers, she couldn't even imagine what that felt like. It sounded thrilling. She drilled him with question after question. Charlotte only had Mama. Then old Gert when Mama died.
She'd never lived with a sibling, let alone four of them. Let alone a boy.
Was that why she accepted Tim Rose's proposal after two months? Fascination? At the moment, she wasn't sure her reason was love. She wasn't even sure it was to be part of a big family.
Charlotte glanced down at the one-carat diamond filigree and platinum engagement ring that had belonged to Tim's grandmother.
But the ring had no answers. She had no answers.
"Charlotte Malone?" A round, pleasant-looking woman approached her from the other side of a dining table. "I read about you in Southern Weddings. You look like your picture."
"I hope that's a good thing." Charlotte smiled.
"Oh, it is. Your shop sounds magical. Made me wish I was getting married again."
"We hit a lucky break with that piece." When the editor called last fall, it was the last in a wash of fortunate waves breaking Charlotte's way.
"I've been married thirty-two years and I read Southern Weddings about as religiously as the Good Book. I just love weddings, don't you?"
"I certainly love wedding dresses," Charlotte said.
"I suppose you do." The woman's laugh lingered in the air as she said good-bye and moved on, touching Charlotte's arm gently as she passed.
She did love wedding dresses. Since she was a girl, the satin and sheen of white gowns practically made her giddy. She loved the way a bride's face changed when she slipped on the perfect gown, the way her hopes and dreams swam in her eyes.
In fact, she was on the verge of her own transformation—slipping on the perfect gown, hopes and dreams swimming in her eyes.
So what was the problem? Why the holdout? She'd considered fifteen dresses, tried on none. June 23 would be here before she knew it.
A year ago February, she was barely getting by, investing all her capital in inventory while duct-taping her shop—a 1920s Mountain Brook cottage—together.
Then an anonymous bank check to the tune of a hundred thousand dollars landed in her account. After weeks of panicked elation trying to find out who would give her so much money, Charlotte redeemed her gift and finally, finally remodeled her shop. And everything changed.
Tawny Boswell, Miss Alabama, became a client and put her on the map. Southern Weddings called. Then, as if to put a bow on the year, Charlotte attended the Christmas dinner and sat next to a handsome man who charmed everyone in the room. By the time she'd finished her first course of oyster soup, Tim Rose had captured her heart too.
The feathery kiss of destiny sent a shiver over her soul as the breeze rushing over the mountaintop tapped her legs. Did she smell rain? Dipping her head to see beyond the lip of the tent, Charlotte saw nothing but the glorious sun possessing a crystal blue sky. Not one vanilla cloud in sight.
She started down the next aisle and her phone buzzed from her jeans pocket. Dixie.
"Hey, Dix, everything okay at the shop?"
"Quiet. But Tawny called. She wants to meet with you tomorrow at three."
Sunday? "Is everything all right? Did she sound okay? Like she was still happy with us?" Charlotte had spent months trying to find the perfect gown for Miss Alabama, lying awake at night, whispering to the God of love to help her fulfill Tawny's dreams.
Then she discovered a new, small designer out of Paris and Charlotte knew she'd found her own brand of white-silk gold. "Call her back and tell her tomorrow is fine. Do we have crackers and cheese in the refreshment bar? Coffee, tea, water, and soda?"
"We're all stocked. Tawny seemed enthusiastic, so I don't think she's going to tell you she's going with another shop."
"How long have we been working in the bridal gown business together, Dix?"
"Five years, ever since you opened this place." Dix, forever pragmatic and calm.
"And how many times have we lost a customer at the last minute?" Even after countless hours of scouring designers to find the perfect gown.
"We didn't know what we were doing then. We're the experts now," Dixie said.
"You know very well it has nothing to do with us. Listen, I'll call Tawny and tell her we'd be happy to see her tomorrow."
"Already told her. Didn't think you'd want to turn her down." Dixie's voice always carried the weight of confidence. She was a godsend. Support beams for Charlotte's dream. "So, where are you anyway, Char?"
"Up on Red Mountain. At the Ludlow estate. I came up here to think but ran into the annual auction crowd. I'm wandering among the antiques as we speak."
"People or things?"
Charlotte grinned, scanning the gray heads among the aisles. "A little of both." She paused in front of a locked glass of jewels. Unique pieces were the perfect accent for her brides. Charlotte maintained an inventory of one-of-a-kind necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and tiaras. It was the small things that helped seal her success.
"Speaking of weddings," Dixie said low and slow.
"Aren't we always? Your wedding invitations are still on the storeroom desk, Charlotte. Do you want me to bring them home tonight?" Dix and her husband, Jared, Dr. Hotstuff as she called him, lived in the Homewood loft next door to Charlotte.
"Wait ... really? They're still on the storeroom desk? I thought I took them home."
"If you did, they walked back."
"Ha, ha, funny girl you are, Dixie. Yeah, sure, bring them home. I can work on them tomorrow after church. I need to see if Mrs. Rose has a guest list for Tim's side—"
"You're meeting with Tawny at three."
"Right, okay, after I meet with her. Or I can work on them Monday night. I don't think I have anything Monday night."
"Charlotte, can I ask you something?"
"You're getting married in two months and—"
"I've just been busy, Dixie, that's all." Charlotte knew where her friend was going with her inquiry. Charlotte had been asking herself the same questions for weeks now, and the need for answers drove her up the mountain today. "I've got time."
"But it's running out."
She knew. She knew. "We should've picked a fall wedding date. Fast engagement, fast wedding ... it has me spinning."
"Tim is an amazing man, Charlotte."
She knew. She knew. But was he amazing for her? "Listen, I'd better go. I need to get back down the mountain in a few minutes so I can get my hair done. Call you later."
"Have fun tonight, Charlotte. Don't let Katherine get to you. Tell her to bug off. Just be there with Tim. Remember why you fell in love in the first place."
Excerpted from The WEDDING DRESS by RACHEL HAUCK Copyright © 2012 by Rachel Hauck. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I think this book has the potential to be the new "Redeeming Love" of Christian romance. It was the first book I've read in ages that I absolutely couldn't put down.
Just finished this book and was disappointed that I was done with it! Great story line and love the spiritual aspect without being pushy. I will be looking for more books by this author.
As an orphan, Charlotte wishes she could go back in time to a happier scene of her childhood. She remembers a special place where she often picnicked with her mother. But when she arrives at “their spot” it is crowded with interlopers. Having of all things, a sale. She ends up with an old trunk that she didn’t know she wanted. When she unlocks secrets from the past, she finds her future. I appreciated the theme of finding your heritage, or family, and what all that means.
The Wedding Dress was a sweet story overall, but one that I never really considered giving more than three stars to. I liked the idea of the wedding dress that gets passed from woman to woman and magically fits them all without alterations (think: the jeans from the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, only with the dress passing through time and between relative strangers rather than going by mail among the four friends), and for the most part enjoyed the back-and-forth perspective in the novel between the current heroine (Charlotte) and the dress's original owner (Emily). I even enjoyed seeing things from their significant others' viewpoints as well (Tim and Daniel). The few times it went beyond that, though--especially the solitary time we saw things from the point-of-view of the dress's second owner--seemed more forced. In that instance, it really seemed as if the story could have been just told by the character to Charlotte in the present (which is actually how Charlotte learned the story anyway, so it would have made sense to do it that way.) I'm not quite sure I exactly understand who the man in purple is supposed to be--I gather he has something to do with the passing on of the dress, and imagine there must be some sort of Biblical/religious reference that I'm just not getting--but I almost feel as if the story would have been stronger without his involvement in it. He didn't do much more for me beyond making me scratch my head a bit, wondering just who he was. This book too was a bit heavier on the Christian aspect than I am usually comfortable with, though it was fairly secondary until the end, when I felt like I was getting bashed over the head with the "This is Christian Fiction!" stick. One of my favorite parts of the story was the history of Birmingham as seen through Emily's portions--they offered a fascinating glimpse into the pre-Civil Rights era South. I thought that bit was very well done. Overall, I did enjoy this book. People who appreciate Christian fiction with a historical fiction twist as well should find it a solid read.
The Wedding Dress was an enjoyable read. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a relaxing, summer read, or something for your book club. It had everything - love story, personnel turmoil, mystery.
This is the first book I have read by Rachael Hauck. It was wonderful. I could not put it down.
I love how Rachel Hauck weaves romance into a story much larger than just boy-meets-girl-then-loses-girl-then...well you get it. The Wedding Dress is filled with compelling characters that will capture your heart and hold it hostage until the end. This was one of those rare books I couldn't put down. Novel Rocket and I give it a very high recommendation. It's a "must read."
This book has a little bit of everything in it and kept my attention from the first page till the last. It was nostalgic yet timely in its message and heart warming too.
This was the first book from this author I had read and let me say it is a fabulous read. Her style of writing is very comfortable to read. It makes me feel drawn in to the story. I now have read 2 more books by her and working on the 3rd. We are so thankful for her talent and blessed she is using it for good!!!
I found this book very easy to read and it kept my attention . Would definitely try this author again.
This was the first book i have read in awhile and the first book by this author. I was pleasantly surprised and so loved how the author tied each character together! I thought it was very well done! It kept my attention continually! Im buying another one by this author!
I liked this book. The characters had depth and the romance side of things didn't get too mushy. The main characters' relationship felt genuine and relatable. I liked the two different timelines too. It gave the book an interesting edge. The ending cut off kind of quick for my taste but it didn't detract a whole lot from the book. I kind of knew how it would end but I enjoyed the journey.
Four women, one wedding dress managing its way through different times and situations, a one size fits all kind of dress, never needing any altering, never aging or looking out of date, always looking perfect on each bride. Spanning in time from 1812 to present, the reader discovers the origin of the dress and how it came to be and the mystery behind all the women that wore the dress and how they were linked together. I found this storyline to be most captivating and most charming as the story unfolds taking it’s time in a most wonderful way. The story opens with our present day heroine Charlotte inexplicably finding herself at the annual Ludlow Antiques auction at the Ludlow estate, bidding on a mysterious trunk with who knows what inside; 1,000$ of bidding later the trunk is hers. She is a bit surprised at herself for splurging so to speak, as she is a future bride herself saving for her own wedding that is rapidly approaching. But this little purchase sends her on a mystery of her own as she seeks to know the story behind what’s in the trunk which is of course “the wedding dress”. While this contemporary storyline is happening, the book also flashes back to 1812 and Emily Canton a young beautiful woman with 2 men that have caught her eye, one that she thought was only in her past and one who is very much in her present. As the story unfolds Emily discovers who is after her heart and who has ulterior motives. Two other “wearer’s of the dress” Mary Grace and Hillary have lesser storylines but they are still intricate to the novel and an important part in the story. Rachel Hauck weaves joy, heartache, coming of age struggles , love and a charming element of magic in a certain male character that pops up throughout the novel that just make this story a delight to read. This novel has wide range appeal as who doesn’t love to read a little romance, but also in this novel a strong historical component as the dress spans through time and what was happening to the women, as well as a nice contemporary storyline as well, as a friend of mine said- “it has something for everyone”. I heartily agree. I also want to mention that the author’s note at the end is not one to be skipped as it brings even more light to the precious spiritual elements to the book. I highly recommend this book, there’s just something really special about it. 5 stars I was graciously provided a digital copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through the Netgalley program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are honest and my own.
Well written and hard to put down. Highly recommended.
Great book with a beautiful story. I fell in love with the story and the ladies. Reminds you that God has a purpose for everyone and everything.
I believe I picked the right time to read this book or in a way God brought it to me. Stories of faith, family, grace, and redemption. Something I believe we need more of everday.
296 pages - Excellent read
My first book by Rachel Hauck. I must admit I brought it because it was cheap but I highly recommend it. The story is wonderful and I had a hard time putting the book down. You will not be dissappointed!!!!
I read this book over the Holidays and enjoyed it very much. The women from the different time periods showed great strength and independence, although the last one had less of both qualities. The journey of the dress and the relationship of the women was well done. Since it was the Holidays when I read it the magical qualities in the book seemed appropriate. It's a happy book.
I truly enjoyed reading this beautiful story. How interesting 4 Brides and 1 wedding dress. This one is a most read...
This book was a pleasant surprise for me. I have read many historical fiction books in my time, and I have thoroughly enjoyed them. I am also an incredible fan of Christian romances, but this was so refreshingly different from anything I have ever read. And I read it very quickly. The entire premise behind this book is a wedding dress that came into contact with four women and impacted them all in special ways. This means that the dress is over 100 years old. And it just so happens that Charlotte ends up getting this dress--almost by accident. She has no idea when she gets it what a marvelous journey she will undertake! Because the book covered four different women and showed how their stories intersect, I was quite intrigued. It was also clear how strongly divine appointment figured into the story. There were too many coincidences for it to not be the work of God. I loved how the author wove everything together in a unique, endearing story. I think I experienced every emotion along with these characters. My favorite character was Emily. I was glad that the author spent her time covering this wonderful character. However, Charlotte was the one with whom I could identify. And God definitely spoke to me through her. I was reminded that God puts everything in our lives for a reason, and we just have to trust Him for the outcome. God doesn't give us good gifts and then delight in taking them away just to tease us or punish us. The center of the story is definitely this magical dress. It seems to take on a life of its own. And I was quite pleased to see the parallels that the author drew between the Christian walk and the wedding dress. This is a historical romance that I think just about anyone who likes that genre would enjoy. It is a charming story told from a wonderfully fresh perspective. I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated in any way, and opinions are 100 percent mine.
This was truly one of the best books I have ever read. The storyline was wonderful; I had a difficult time putting it down. I love how the author incorporates God into this story; it is truly uplifting. I cannot wait to share this story with my daughters.
The Wedding Dress is an amazing story of how one wedding dress ties together four brides over the past century. From the moment Charlotte bids on the battered trunk, I fell in love with the story. Charlotte is only weeks away from her own wedding, and she has yet to find the dress that is uniquely hers. For a woman who has both feet firmly planted in the present, she is strangely drawn to the trunk she buys at an auction, intrigued by the odd auctioneer who claimed she had redeemed the chest. Rachel has done an outstanding job of weaving the stories together, giving Charlotte a better understanding of her faith, redemption, and true love. An excellent read.
Oh wow. This was a stunning book. Kept me guessing right till the conclusions of both major storylines. Despite the dual aspect, each character was clear and the romances breathtaking. I don’t want to give too much away but can not recommend this book highly enough. You will not be disappointed.