2 reviews

The Dressmaker's Dowry: A Novel
by Meredith Jaeger

Published: 2017-02-07
Paperback : 384 pages
6 members reading this now
7 clubs reading this now
2 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 2 members

For readers of Lucinda Riley, Sarah Jio, or Susan Meissner, this gripping historical debut novel tells the story of two women: one, an immigrant seamstress who disappears from San Francisco’s gritty streets in 1876, and the other, a young woman in present day who must delve into the ...

No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to


For readers of Lucinda Riley, Sarah Jio, or Susan Meissner, this gripping historical debut novel tells the story of two women: one, an immigrant seamstress who disappears from San Francisco’s gritty streets in 1876, and the other, a young woman in present day who must delve into the secrets of her husband’s wealthy family only to discover that she and the missing dressmaker might be connected in unexpected ways.

An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom...

San Francisco: 1876

Immigrant dressmakers Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret O'Brien struggle to provide food for their siblings, while mending delicate clothing for the city's most affluent ladies. When wealthy Lucas Havensworth enters the shop, Hanna's future is altered forever. With Margaret's encouragement and the power of a borrowed green dress, Hanna dares to see herself as worthy of him. Then Margaret disappears, and Hanna turns to Lucas. Braving the gritty streets of the Barbary Coast and daring to enter the mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stumbles upon Margaret’s fate, forcing her to make a devastating decision...one that will echo through the generations.

San Francisco: Present Day

In her elegant Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Sarah Havensworth struggles to complete the novel she quit her job for. Afraid to tell her husband of her writer’s block, Sarah is also hiding a darker secret—one that has haunted her for 14 years. Then a news headline from 1876 sparks inspiration: Missing Dressmakers Believed to be Murdered. Compelled to discover what happened to Hannelore and Margaret, Sarah returns to her roots as a journalist. Will her beautiful heirloom engagement ring uncover a connection to Hanna Schaeffer? 





Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Chapter 2
Hannelore Schaeffer
San Francisco, January, 1876
The sting of Father’s palm spread across Hannelore’s face like the burn of hot coals. He leaned in close, his sour breath reeking of whiskey. Blood trickled down Hanna’s nose, the metallic taste reaching her tongue. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. The novel is set in 1876, years before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Margaret says, “There’s enough sin in this city for it to burn someday.” Is there anything about this time period in San Francisco’s history that surprised you? Do you think it was more dangerous to be a working-class woman at that time than a woman of society?

2. At the wharves, a street child expresses anti-Chinese sentiment to Hanna. She fears the gangs that are opposed to foreigners living in the city. Did immigrants have a more difficult time finding jobs and assimilating into American culture than natives? Can you trace the arrival of your own ancestors to the United States?

3. Sarah is hiding a dark and painful secret from her husband. What was your reaction to finding out Sarah’s secret? Did she have a right to conceal the truth from Hunter? Did it change your opinion of her character?

4. Lucas and Hanna’s relationship crosses a social divide, and is unconventional due to both class and cultural differences. What were your thoughts as their relationship develops?

5. When Hanna discovers that Robert murdered Margaret, she makes the difficult decision to leave Lucas, without ever telling him the truth. She believes someone else will hang for the crime—Kieran McClaren or Clive, and Robert will get away with it. Did you agree with Hanna’s heartbreaking choice? How was her decision influenced by her position in society, and Lucas’s position?

6. Hanna is steadfast in her devotion to finding Margaret. What did you like about their friendship? Were you surprised that Margaret kept her pregnancy a secret from Hanna? Why do you think she did?

7. Sarah receives threatening emails, and is blackmailed into keeping the truth about Margaret’s murder a secret. Why does Walter Havensworth want to hide Robert’s crime? Why do appearances matter to him?

8. In the epilogue, we learn that Hanna has escaped San Francisco and made a new life for herself in Sutter’s Creek, under a new name. She remarries, and continues to paint. Do you believe she is happy? How is this life different than the one she would have had with Lucas?

9. In the Victorian era, post-mortem photography was common. Do you find this practice creepy? Did it surprise you? Why do you think these photos were taken?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Sharon D. (see profile) 08/28/19

  "Engrossing Read"by Betty T. (see profile) 03/26/17

San Francisco was and is a city of many cultures and has a fascinating history. Thus, being a fan of historical fiction, I was quickly drawn into this story that alternated between present d... (read more)

  "The Dressmaker's Dowry"by Elizabeth P. (see profile) 02/25/17

From San Francisco 1876 to present day, we learn of the plight of the poor, the privilege of the wealthy, and secrets of a family that connect both eras.

Sarah married into a wealthy fa

... (read more)

Rate this book
Remember me

Now serving over 80,000 book clubs & ready to welcome yours. Join us and get the Top Book Club Picks of 2022 (so far).


Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...