Donning the Dresses.

Book Review for “Clothes-Pegs” by Susan Scarlett.

Summary: “Annabel Brown has taken a job in the sewing room at Bertna’s, a high-end dressmaker, to help her family’s finances. When one of the “mannequins” employed downstairs quits unexpectedly, Tania Petoff, the shop’s owner, decides to try lovely Annabel in her place, to the chagrin of her catty fellow models. Annabel’s improved status leads to tension in her close-knit family, then (following a wardrobe malfunction) she catches the eye of wealthy Lord David de Bett-and the ire of the dreadful Honourable Octavia Glaye. How things work themselves out is as delicious a bit of frothy fun as one could well imagine.”

Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Contemporary (1939); UK – London, Sussex; Other Categories: Novel, Vintage, Romance, Humor, Re-Release.

clothes-pegs Amazon

My regular readers know that I do NOT like romance novels, but I don’t mind a few romantic bits in my literary fiction. Well, that is as long as it isn’t angst ridden, or with graphic sex scenes, as many of today’s romance novels seem to employ. This novel, however, really does lean heavily on the romance, but in that “sweet but not sloppy” way that many novels released between the two world wars were written. Sure, this book does use the “rich, titled man falls for poor, commoner girl” trope that was popular back then, and continues to be used in historical romance novels. There’s also the “if he knew the truth” trope here, but thankfully, it isn’t our main protagonist who is keeping something from the nobleman here, so that’s in this novel’s favor.

In fact, the way that Annabel is totally honest and upfront with the Lord she’s fallen for, was quite refreshing. Plus, Annabel has other things in her life besides the handsome David, and her humble family does take up much of her life, together with her trying to earn money to help them out financially. Scarlett paints Annabel as being a bit of an innocent – she’s only 17, apparently – and so she’s often warned about things that more sophisticated characters believe could get her in trouble. This does make Annabel make some mistakes by not following her own instincts, which we very quickly realize are much more reliable than she is aware. This, of course, makes Annabel into a very sympathetic character, who also doesn’t realize her own beauty, nor that she’s so likeable because she’s such a good person. All she wants is to do her job as best she can, and help her family. If maybe one day she falls in love, that would be the icing on the cake.

Scarlett also drew the secondary characters in this novel so nicely, that they too come alive on the page. We have Bernadette, the only model who is nice to Annabel, as well as Elizabeth and Freda, the two models who are the mean girls. We also get lovely insights into Annabel’s family, especially her mother Ethyl and father George, whose relationship is really adorable to watch unfold. Obviously, getting to know the love interest, Lord David de Bett, is an important part of this novel, and Scarlett decided to make him into a rare good guy, without introducing another admirer with less than above board intentions, who might try to lead Annabel astray. While that’s a trope that would have been an easy venue to follow, Scarlett avoids this, much to her credit. No, Annabel’s biggest mistakes are made because she is overly cautious, and not from some type of temptation.

I should note that Scarlett’s style here is very gentle, and flows nicely without being too flowery or poetic. This is probably due to the fact that Susan Scarlett is a pseudonym for Mary Noel Streatfeild, who wrote many children’s books that were very popular in the UK during the early part of the 20th century (for which she was awarded an OBE – Officer of the Order of the British Empire). This style seems to have spilled over into her adult, romance books, and I believe that’s what made this novel so charming and approachable. Plus, I think that Scarlett really loved her characters, especially her main protagonists, because that truly comes through in this story. All this means is that I’m so glad I got to read this book, and I can warmly recommend it to anyone who wants a more homely type of romance, even if it might feel a bit old fashioned to some. Therefore, I think that all told, a book of this caliber, which is good clean fun, deserves a solid four out of five stars.

0ae9b-4starstiny Street Press re-released “Clothes-Pegs” by Susan Scarlett (aka Noel Streatfeild) on August 1, 2022. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website,, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel.

This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: New Release Challenge (#34), 20 Books of Summer 22 (#9).

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