The Wedding Veil
“Readers may . . . close the book believing that with a little magic, a family may be able to survive all the hardships to create their own little happy ever after. Because ultimately, despite life’s trials, real love stands the test of time.”
Four generations of women. One beautiful wedding veil. And a masterfully woven story. That’s the kind of literary “homerun” New York Times bestselling author Kristy Woodson Harvey delivers with her latest work of women’s fiction, The Wedding Veil.
This split-time narrative will delight readers of both contemporary and historical novels, as it brings to life a cross-generational legacy in the most captivating settings: the British Virgin Islands; Manhattan; England; and Raleigh (another homage to Harvey’s North Carolina roots), with scenes built everywhere from an historic Paris cathedral to the Soggy Dollar Bar and the lavish Biltmore Estate.
Add a runaway bride, a fearless grandmother, and a bit of “magic,” and readers will discover a fast-paced escape that leaves them feeling as if they’ve just spent hours getting to live a life of privilege.
It starts with young Edith longing to marry her beloved “Daddy,” and her mother Susan assuring her that she’ll “find a man just like Daddy, who is kind and handsome and loves you very much. And he will take care of you like Daddy takes care of me.”
Edith builds the dream by saying, “Yes, yes. You, most certainly, will be a princess. You will live in a castle with many acres to roam to stretch your legs and plenty of fresh air to fill your lungs. You will have your own lady’s maid and a nursery full of lovely children. You will find a husband who will love you more than the stars, who will give you the earth and everything in it.”
From that moment forward, Edith shares this secret with her mother: “The wedding veil was magic. And once she wore it, the fairy-tale life her mother had promised would be hers.”
But this book isn’t a fluffy romance novel. In it, Harvey proves her merits as a gifted storyteller. She jumps from that playful scene to present day Asheville, where Julia admires thousands of tulips in bloom at the Biltmore Estate, accepts a lovely toast from her spunky grandmother Babs, and ties up the final details for her wedding (which is scheduled to take place the following day).
This soon-to-be bride has everything any woman could ever ask for. The only problem? Julia is having second thoughts:
“Everyone raised their glasses gleefully, but as we all clinked, I felt a familiar panic welling up in my throat. Could I do this? Could I marry Hayes tomorrow? And, maybe more important, should I? Follow the rules. I thought. Follow the rules.”
Sensing her granddaughter’s hesitation, Babs offers typical Babs’ advice: “In life, and especially at a party, there can never be enough surprises, Jules.” She raised her eyebrows. “It’s the surprises that direct our path.”
This is one of many plot twists that take place in this well-crafted novel, a story that does an exceptional job touching on the complexities of women’s roles in life.
One particularly heartbreaking scene brings us through a moment of trauma: “I sobbed as they put him in the ambulance, stood screaming in my front yard as they drove him away. I don’t know who called my daughters, but Meredith was suddenly there, guiding me back into the house. I was, after all, still in my pajamas.”
But in addition to showing her characters in their moments of suffering, Harvey also offers them hope, even during deep grief, as when a friend comforts another who thinks: “That was all it took for me to know that he felt exactly the same.”
Of course, Harvey is a pro at managing the emotional ups and downs that build her story, and it seems she understands that sometimes all a person needs is to feel seen, heard, and understood.
But have no fear. As soon as readers feel the aches of her characters, they get to rejoice with them, too. Babs is a pro at navigating that kind of complexity in life, just as she warned Julia that surprises always come when we least expect them. What she might not have known is that the advice would prove true even for her:
“I never would have imagined that I would be standing face-to-face with the difficult and confusing inner workings of love again at my age—and certainly not with a man who had vanished from my life only to reappear decades later. But here we were.”
As with all her books, Harvey celebrates the joys of family and community in The Wedding Veil. She delivers these themes with her trademark glamour and lighthearted spirit, all while weaving in fashion, architectural design, and the dramas that play out in daily life—no matter where we live or how old we are. It even includes some fascinating history about the Vanderbilt family and the Biltmore Estate.
In the end, the message is that no matter how “fairy-tale perfect” our lives may appear on the surface, nothing is ever as flawless as it may seem. And that living fearlessly is always the best bet.
This book is appropriate for everyone and would provide a fun read for book clubs. It’s a delightful, well-shaped novel that leaves readers with a burst of joy in the end. And who knows? Readers may even close the book believing that with a little magic, a family may be able to survive all the hardships to create their own little happy ever after. Because ultimately, despite life’s trials, real love stands the test of time.