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The wedding dress / Virginia Renfro Ellis.

By: Ellis, Virginia Renfro.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: Waterville, Me. : Thorndike Press, 2002Description: 339 pages ; 23 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 0345444825; 9780345444820; 0786247053; 9780786247059.Subject(s): Women -- Fiction | Large type books | Southern States -- FictionGenre/Form: Historical fiction.DDC classification: 813/.6 | F Ellis Summary: Widowed after the Civil War and struggling to make ends meet, Julia and Victoria Atwater plan to cheer up their younger sister, Claire, by sewing her a special wedding gown, but all their lives are changed by the arrival of Sergeant Monroe Tacy.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

"We began the dress on the last evening in October." For three sisters, it will become a banner of hope, spun from delicate memories of genteel tradition and woven with threads of possibility. Through the desolate landscape of winter, it will act as a beacon of unexpected fortune and faith in a world void of promise. It will inspire the noble heart that lies dormant beneath layers of grief. Together, the stalwart ladies of Oak Creek, Virginia will fashion their impossible dreams into . . .

THE WEDDING DRESS

Virginia Renfro Ellis's extraordinary work of historical fiction evokes the tattered essence of the post-Civil War South, where widows, children, and scarred veterans were left to reconstruct a country. There is little to wish for in the lives of the Atwater women. Julia and Victoria were barely brides before their husbands marched off with the doomed Confederate army. Now alone, with scarcely enough money to see them through until spring, they embark on an impetuous mission to bring a sparkle of joy back into their youngest sister's eyes. Seventeen-year-old Claire has always wanted to be married. And though she has no intended groom, her sisters decide to sew her a wedding gown.

As the dress takes shape, the gates of their meager plantation home welcome the arrival of Sergeant Monroe Tacy. He has come to fulfill a dying man's last request, but his presence begins a series of remarkable events that will transform the Atwater sisters forever.

The Wedding Dress is an unforgettable lesson in hope, written with the natural simplicity and beauty of a born storyteller.

Widowed after the Civil War and struggling to make ends meet, Julia and Victoria Atwater plan to cheer up their younger sister, Claire, by sewing her a special wedding gown, but all their lives are changed by the arrival of Sergeant Monroe Tacy.

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Excerpt provided by Syndetics

October, 1865 The war has been over for six months, yet the dream came again last night. I'd thought it left me, after plaguing me for two years without mercy, then inexplicably stopping. But as I lay motionless in the darkness, alone, eyes wide open, held prisoner by the familiar overwhelming sadness, I remember. It is my wedding day. And in the dream William stands tall and handsome at my side proudly wearing his lieutenant's uniform of the 24th Virginia. In this welcome glimpse of the past, my William, my husband to be, looks fearsome and beautiful, so alive and in a fever to claim me as wife before going to war. The beloved vision of him breaks my heart. Because I know what comes next. I remember the weary path of this dream well. What comes next is that as I stand there, in front of family and friends--half of Patrick County--on the happiest day of my life, I look down at my beautiful, heirloom wedding dress, the same gown my mother wore to pledge her life to my father, and see that it is covered in blood. The blood of war and mortal men. Of broken dreams and severed vows. You see, I am the middle child of three, all of us girls. Our duty, and the best we could do for ourselves and our family was to marry well, have fine, healthy children, be obedient wives, and good Christians. So far, my sisters and I had failed on every count beyond marriage. My elder sister, Victoria, should have married first, but when I met William and fell heels over head in love, my father thought it circumspect to marry us before our passion got out of hand. William's family agreed. So, I was the first to take the vows, to become Lieutenant Mrs. William Lovejoy, wearing my mother's dress. So much has happened since then. Victoria did marry, six months after me. My parents were still with us then and even though our fortunes were slimmer, I believe they were proud of her choice. My sister's husband, James Whitmore, touched our lives only briefly. Of good family, but little wealth, he, too, marched off to defend the South from the Unionists. Very few months after his departure he was reported missing and presumed dead following the battle of Chickamauga. We never heard from him again. In a way I was luckier than Victoria. I knew what had happened to my William. He'd made arrangements with his men that they should get word to me if something unfortunate occurred and his men honored him by keeping their promise. I received a letter from a Sergeant Tacy saying that William had died on the third of July in Pennsylvania at a place called Gettysburg, serving bravely under General Longstreet. The names and places meant little to me then--Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top. What meant more was that Sergeant Tacy had written to say my husband's last words had been of me. And now the dream was back. Why? I had come to terms with fate and the past the best I could through prayer, hard work, and sacrifice. Lying in the dark listening to the mockers and the house sparrows beginning to stir, I couldn't fathom the reason. Then, I heard a woman weeping. For one silly moment I thought the sound had originated from me, or was a spectral echo of the nights I had cried myself to sleep. Rising and turning my head, however, helped me find the source. The mournful sobs were coming through the wall, from my younger sister, Claire's room. I lit a lamp and went to investigate. "What is it, Sweet?" I lowered myself onto the side of Claire's bed and pushed the damp hair out of her eyes. At seventeen years, Claire was already a beauty like our mother, with fair hair and china blue eyes, blooming even in so spare a garden as our small, out-of-the-way plantation, Oak Creek. Claire pulled away from my comfort and sobbed louder. "Are you ill?" I was beginning to worry. We were far from any doctor and had precious little money to pay one. She shook her head and drew in a long steadying breath. "What is it then?" "I can't say," she mumbled. "It's too ungrateful. You and Victoria have lost--" Still in the dark, I persisted. "Victoria and I have what?" Claire carried on louder then, and I heard the door hinges squeak. Looking up, Victoria met my gaze with a question in her eyes. I shrugged my shoulders as a signal that I didn't know yet. Victoria nodded and closed the door. As we had always done with Claire, I would reason with her first. If I failed, then Victoria would step in. We did the best we could without our mother. After all, we were grown women. Women who would have had children of our own to handle if not for the intervention of the war. And Claire was hardly a child. She herself should have been married by now. "I'll never marry," Claire practically wailed. The fact that her thoughts had been so close to my own startled me. "Of course you will," I soothed, saying the obligatory words when the truth was, I had little hope. "You'll meet a handsome gentleman who'll melt your heart." I thought of my own William and felt tears sting my eyes once more. Straightening my shoulders, I blathered on before both of us were wailing into the bedclothes. "Now that the war is over--" "Now that the war is over, all the men are dead," Claire interrupted angrily. Just as quickly her anger disappeared. She threw herself into my arms. "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean it. I didn't mean to hurt you." It did hurt, but it wasn't Claire's doing. I'd learned in hard fashion that wars are fought by the men, but it was the women who must deal with the aftermath. "It's all right, Sweeting. I know." I stopped before telling her she was right, that she probably would become a spinster. In the past, before the war, there would have been formal dinners with dancing, or picnics on the church grounds, many opportunities to meet eligible young men of good family. The memory of dancing with William under festive lanterns hung in the trees filled my mind and heart. I wanted to close my eyes and breathe deeply to find the sweet perfume of honeysuckle as I had that evening. But winter had come, and William would not dance with me ever again. The war had changed everything. The victors were calling it Reconstruction, but I could see little hope that the world we had lost would ever be restored. Good fortune had kept the fighting from our land. That and our utter lack of strategic value. Off the beaten track of the main movements of both armies, we'd only been relieved of some livestock and vegetables by foraging Con- federates. Even they had seen fit to leave us one milk cow that had since gone dry, one old horse, Jeremiah, one pregnant sow, and half our chickens. In deference to our men fighting for the cause, I suppose. Now, however, with the war lost and President Lincoln dead by the hand of what the Federals called "a Southern sympathizer," we had no idea what to expect. We'd be lucky to keep our family land, much less have families and a future of our own. But, just in that moment, I didn't have the heart to crush Claire's hopes. "Let me think on this. If you truly want to marry, I shall find a way." Claire was silent then and looked at me with all the hope and faith of a child whose sister had never failed her. I knew I had to find a way. I held her until she stopped sniffling and shaking. By that time, red streaks of morning sun lightened the sky and our two remaining roosters were crowing to herald the new day. I waited until Claire had gone out to the barn to collect eggs before broaching the subject to Victoria. We were in the cookhouse making breakfast. We'd learned to cook for ourselves since we couldn't afford any help these days, and since only the three of us sat down to any meal. The food wasn't always pretty, like our mother had insisted upon, but it was serviceable. I will say, however, that it's much more pleasant to watch someone churn butter than it is to handle the enterprise one's self. Excerpted from The Wedding Dress by Virginia Ellis All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Publishers Weekly Review

Set in post-Civil War Virginia, Ellis's suspense-filled romance evokes the aftermath of war in a state that is dying by inches, economically ruined and devoid of an entire generation of young men. The three beautiful Atwater sisters two with dead or missing husbands, one whose chances for marriage have been blighted by the war cling to each other in the ruins of their family home, Oak Creek Plantation. In an effort to stave off despair, the widowed Julia makes a rash gesture: she announces that 17-year-old Claire, the youngest, will be married in the spring. With no funds and no groom in sight, Julia, Victoria (whose husband has gone missing in the war) and Claire dedicate their resources to making a wedding dress. Tested by events ranging from the supernatural (ghostly Southern soldiers) to the providential (lace and buttons appear through the generosity of friends and strangers), the sisters rely on their faith to see them through. With the arrival of Monroe Tacy, Julia's husband's old comrade, along with several surprise visitors, some joy may be salvaged from the ashes of their lives. Ellis spins an engaging story, though her Southern dialect can be stiff and some scenes wax overly sentimental. Her narrative warmly embraces its entire range of characters and keeps the reader guessing until the end. The author, who has written a dozen romance novels under the name of Lyn Ellis, is off to a good start in combining a historical perspective with generous portraits of appealing characters. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-In this light, heart-warming novel, sisters Julia and Victoria, widowed by the Civil War, show their true, optimistic nature. Determined that their youngest sister, Claire, will have a beautiful, happy wedding, they design and sew a dress without a groom in sight. Their genteel poverty means that they must sell possessions to get the necessary cloth, but neighbors donate trimmings. Sergeant Tacy, an aide to Julia's husband, arrives at their Virginia plantation to tell her of William's last battle and his last expressions of love for her. The officer stays to help as the women begin to try to farm and start life anew. Julia tells the story, and readers feel both her confidence and her insecurities as problems develop. As she misses William more and more she sees specters of soldiers waiting around the farm. Later she decides he sent them to comfort her. The historical details of daily life are woven skillfully into the simple plot, and subtle nuances are drawn between classes and races. Teens will delight in the touches of humor that involve a contrary mule, and they will also realize that from depressed times can come hope and happiness.-Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

In this involving novel set during the Reconstruction era in the South, the Atwater sisters struggle to attain normalcy after the turbulence of the war years. Julia has lost her husband, William, in the war, and Victoria's husband, James, is missing and presumed dead. Convinced that the best years of their lives are behind them, they concentrate their attention on their younger sister, 17-year-old Claire, and decide to sew her a wedding gown as a symbol of their optimism about her future. Through a series of fortuitous events, they manage to lay their hands on almost everything they need--except a groom. Then Monroe Tacy, a sergeant who served under William, makes the arduous journey from Savannah to deliver William's dying message to his wife. Julia thinks she has found Claire a husband, but events take a surprising turn. Ellis, author of a dozen romance novels under the name Lyn Ellis, is making a bid for mainstream success here, in what is more a historical novel with a strong romance at the center. An enjoyable read. --Joanne Wilkinson

Kirkus Book Review

Two Civil War widows struggle to make a wedding dress for their younger sister, in romance author Lyn Ellis's first novel under her given name. Julia's husband, Lieutenant William Lovejoy, perished at Gettysburg; Victoria's bookish, dreamy James was shot in a matter of weeks. The sisters are penniless after the war, but they are determined that Claire, the youngest, will have a wedding dress, even though there scarcely seems to be a man alive to marry. They have given up most of what was considered proper by the standards of a society wiped out by the cruel realities of war and survival, but they won't give up this notion. A kindly shopkeeper and elderly neighbors provide the materials, yards of lace and pearl buttons; Julia and Victoria begin to sew determinedly. There is no groom, yet the three young women are plagued by ghostly apparitions of Confederate soldiers marching through the woods around Oak Creek Plantation. Then Sergeant Monroe Tacy rides many miles to tell the full story of Lt. Lovejoy's heroic death and stays on to help the sisters. James returns unexpectedly, not dead but blind. Arliss Edwards, the free man of color who helped James survive, is a skilled woodworker who sees potential in Oak Creek's innumerable fine trees. He and Monroe begin the arduous tasks that the women were unable to do. To save the plantation from sale, Julia hopes to persuade Monroe to marry Claire, but he isn't interested in the flighty girl. He asks for Julia's hand instead but she refuses, assailed by memories of her beloved husband and confused by the passionate emotions stirred up by Monroe's proposal. Nonetheless, the wedding dress will indeed be worn in the end-twice. A thoughtful tale, suffused with quiet southern pride and an old-fashioned womanliness.