Nell Marchwold is a junior apprentice milliner with the prestigious Oscar Fields Millinery in New York City in 1922, the time of flappers, speakeasies and jazz. She loves the way her job gives her the opportunity to bring out a woman’s inner beauty through the design of a fabulous hat, but her boss isn’t always supportive of her ideas, and he isn’t prepared to give her the opportunity to show what she can do because of her stammer—which gets worse when she is under stress. Unfortunately, with Mr Fields as a boss, that’s a lot of the time. However, a client recommends a speech therapist who has an unusual approach, and these sessions are a turning point for Nell.
The Hatmaker’s Heart is set in fashionable New York and London, and it’s obvious a huge amount of research has gone into writing the book, as I got a real feel for the time and place. I’m often a picky reader when it comes to historical fiction, as so many authors fall down with the research, but I couldn’t find any faults (there may well be some, but none stood out). I was especially impressed by the richness of the language, specifically the descriptions of the hats Nell creates, and the Twenties slang used by the characters. It really gave me an insight into the culture of the time.
I was equally impressed by the characterisation, especially of Nell and her boss, Oscar Fields. Nell was very timid at the beginning, but as the novel progressed, she gradually developed some backbone. Mr Fields was a controlling boss (I suspect he knows Nell is a better person than him, so the only way for him to feel like a “man” was to threaten and belittle her). This gave the novel a dark undercurrent, and meant we were rooting for Nell to stand up to Mr Fields.
While I very much enjoyed The Hatmaker's Heart, it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting. The title gave me the impression it was a romance, and while it had romantic elements, that wasn’t the main focus of the plot. It is published by Faithwords (an imprint of Hachette), which indicated it was Christian fiction. It was, but the faith elements were more low-key than most. Despite these slight quibbles, I very much enjoyed The Hatmaker’s Heart, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys clean historical fiction with a touch of faith and romance.
Thanks to Faithwords, Litfuse Publicity and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about The Hatmaker's Heart and read more reviews by clicking this link.