Set against the backdrop of the first all-female Mardi Gras krewe at the turn-of-the-century, the acclaimed author's mesmerizing historical novel tells of two strangers separated by background but bound by an unexpected secret--and of the strength and courage women draw from and inspire in each other.
The year 1900 ushers in a new century and the promise of social change, and women rise together toward equality. Yet rules and restrictions remain, especially for women like Alice Butterworth, whose husband has abruptly disappeared. Desperate to make a living for herself and the child she carries, Alice leaves the bitter cold of Chicago far behind, offering sewing lessons at a New Orleans orphanage.
Constance Halstead, a young widow reeling with shock under the threat of her late husband's gambling debts, has thrown herself into charitable work. Meeting Alice at the orphanage, she offers lodging in exchange for Alice's help creating a gown for the Leap Year ball of Les Mysterieuses, the first all-female krewe of Mardi Gras. During Leap Years, women have the rare opportunity to take control in their interactions with men, and upend social convention. Piece by piece, the breathtaking gown takes shape, becoming a symbol of strength for both women, reflecting their progress toward greater independence.
But Constance carries a burden that makes it impossible to feel truly free. Her husband, Benton, whose death remains a dangerous mystery, was deep in debt to the Black Hand, the vicious gangsters who controlled New Orleans' notorious Storyville district. Benton's death has not satisfied them. And as the Mardi Gras festivities reach their fruition, a secret emerges that will cement the bond between Alice and Constance even as it threatens the lives they're building . . .
Diane C. McPhail is the author of two historical novels: The Abolitionist's Daughter and The Seamstress of New Orleans, which has been listed as a bestseller and in the most popular Historical Fiction on Goodreads. Diane holds an M.F.A., an M.A., and D.Min., and has studied at Duke Writers, the University of Iowa distance learning and Yale Writers’ Workshop, among others. Diane was recently interviewed on NPR, The Writing Life. She received the Award for Literary Excellence in Flash Fiction from Santa Barbara Literary Journal. She was featured on LiveTalks LA in conversation with Jane Smiley; has presented at The Historical Novel Society National Conference; Western Carolina University Literary Festival; The Mississippi Book Festival; Women’s National Book Association, Louisiana Literary Festival, and Portola Valley Arts Guild with Stanford professor, William B. Gould IV. Diane is a member of North Carolina Writers' Network and the Historical Novel Society. She lives in Highlands, North Carolina, with her husband.
An undercurrent of New Orleans’s dark side propels the story, heightening the tension and supplying McPhail with a wealth of evocative details.Publishers Weekly
From the captivating first line, The Seamstress of New Orleans transports the reader to the mystery and sultry magic of New Orleans. With McPhail’s acclaimed and atmospheric prose, The Seamstress of New Orleans is a tale of well-guarded secrets, societal bonds that must be broken, and women’s powerful resilience. A powerful and fascinating story.Patti Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah
“A stunning novel that immersed me in the sultry, dangerous and beautiful world of New Orleans in 1900…richly rewarding, with the twists and turns through the genteel world of upper-class New Orleans and the harsh dangers of Storyville constantly surprising and keeping my heart racing, and each page turned faster than the last. Brilliant.”Kim Taylor Blakemore, bestselling author of After Alice Fell
“In a time and place when women were relegated to the home, these New Orleans ladies set about crafting their own future. Threads of missing husbands, menacing gamblers, and society on the cusp of changing women’s rights weave together to form a riveting tale. The history of the first all-female Krewe was so captivating it sent me to do some googling for extra information. It was also an education about women’s rights and the Napoleonic Code. Fascinating. McPhail has stitched an impressive work of historical fiction that will fuel plenty of book club discussions.”—Pamela Klinger-Horn, Valley Bookseller (Stillwater, MN)