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March 27, 2020

3 Books about Grace Kelly

by Susan Roberts

Grace Patricia Kelly (November 12, 1929 – September 14, 1982) was an American film actress who, after starring in several significant films in the early- to mid-1950s, became Princess of Monaco by marrying Prince Rainier III in April 1956.  There are several popular books that have been published in the last year about Grace Kelly and about her wedding dress.  Here are reviews of three that I recently read.

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The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz

March 2020; Graydon House; 978-1525804663
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); women's fiction
"We need to remember the past so that we can more clearly see where we are going...I see nothing wrong with honoring the past however you see fit.  For your mother, it's this heirloom dress.  For you, it's the tattoos you wear proudly on your body.  But they are the same thing, are they not?" (loc 2886)

This beautifully written novel is about a wedding dress and three generations of women who wore it.  It's a story about tradition versus individuality all reflected through the wedding dress and the three women who wore it.

Paris, 1958.  Rose is a seamstress at a popular shop where the elite have their wedding dresses made.  The wedding dress that Grace Kelly wore several years earlier is still very popular and many women want a wedding dress just like hers.  Due to an unforeseen circumstance, Rose becomes the main designer but then she almost loses it all by falling in love with one of her wealthy bride's brothers.

In the 1980s, Joanie (the daughter of Rose) wears the dress for her wedding but changes the sleeves to be more like Princess Diana's dress.

In present day, Rocky (Rachel) is getting married.  Her mother wants her to wear the family dress but the problem is that she doesn't wear dresses and that she just doesn't want to wear this dress.  She is the CEO of a tech company and is covered with tattoos and a dress designed in the 1950s doesn't reflect the person that she is.  She knows that her mother will be heartbroken if she doesn't wear the dress but she also knows that won't be true to the person that she is if she does wear it.

I enjoyed all three storylines but I wish there would have been more about Joanie and her initial feeling toward the dress that her mother designed.  Overall, it was a great read and an interesting well-written book.

Buy The Grace Kelly Dress at Amazon

The Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher

February 2020; Berkley; 978-0451492074
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); biographical
"Fairy tales tell imaginary stories.  Me. I'm a living person.  I Exist.  If the story of my life as a real woman were to be told one day, people would at last discover the real being that I am."  Grace De Monaco

I knew that Grace Kelly was a movie star and a princess and that's about all I knew about her.  I figured that she must have been happy with her life -- I mean who doesn't dream at some time of being a movie star or a princess and she was both!  The Girl in White Gloves is a fictionalized version of Grace Kelley's life but is full of factual information.  After reading it, I understand the real person behind the actress and the princess and see that having those titles didn't bring her as much happiness as I had believed.

This book is about Grace Kelley at two times in her life - the younger Grace who in 1949 defied her family and moved to New York to try to become a stage actress and the older Grace who at 40 years old is the Princess of Monaco and the mother of three children.

The younger Grace had always dreamed of starring on Broadway.  Her parents allowed her to go to school in NYC but after they found out she was dating a married man who was also Jewish, they made her move back home to Philadelphia.  Her uncle, an actor, helped her get a job in summer stock and then she was able to move back to New York.  After limited success on stage, she is offered a movie role in Hollywood where she was much more successful.  She worked with legendary actors like Gary Cooper and Clark Gable and with director Alfred Hitchcock.  When she is in Cannes, she is asked to do a photoshoot with Prince Ranier of Monaco and they developed a friendship and wrote letters to each other.  She realized that she loved him and when he proposed, she was thrilled to say yes.  She knew that she would be giving up her career but thought that she would still be able to accept acting roles.  She soon found out that acting would no longer fit into her schedule or have her husband's approval and she had to make herself over to become the princess that Ranier and Monaco expected her to be.

The older Grace is 40 years old in 1969.  She has learned her role as Princess and even though she and her husband are not in passionate love, they still have respect for each other.  They have three children who are all teenagers and difficult to handle.  The role of Princess was not all she hoped it would be or what the world thought it would be.  She struggled with her husband and her children and she wanted to go back to acting again but it proved impossible.  She gave much of her time to her charities and to her poetry readings all over Europe.    She finally found happiness in her life right before it came to a tragic end.

Grace Kelley searched for happiness her entire life from her wish to be a Broadway actress to her eventual role as a princess, she struggled to find the life that would bring her fulfillment and happiness.  Just as she was finally finding happiness, her life ended in a tragic accident.  This is the story of a search for happiness through love and family and friendship.  Even though this was a fictionalized version of her life, I feel that I understand Grace Kelly the person.

Buy The Girl in White Gloves at Amazon

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

I reviewed Meet me in Monaco last year but wanted to mention it again since it is also about Grace Kelly.

July 2019; William Morrow; 978-0062913548
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); biographical
This beautiful new novel is based on Grace Kelley's wedding to Prince Rainier in 1956 in Monaco.  Before she met the prince, she was Hollywood elite and followed everywhere by reporters and cameras.  When she was in Cannes in 1955 for the Film Festival, she was introduced to Prince Rainier of Monaco for a photo op.  She wasn't initially very impressed with him but that soon changed.  She married her prince in 1956, retired from Hollywood and lived a happy life cut short by tragedy in 1982.  Over the years, people continue to be enchanted by her fairy tale story and he life in Monaco.  This novel gives us a more intimate look at Grace Kelley before her marriage.

This novel is made up of two very different stories that are entwined almost from the beginning.  When Grace Kelly was trying to escape from a photographer in Cannes, she went into a perfume shop owned by Sophie.  Sophie was not only a shop owner but she also developed new fragrances and understood the chemistry behind new fragrances that she had learned from her deceased father.  When she first meets Grace Kelly, her business is in trouble and her mother, an alcoholic, is threatening to sell the business and the land in Grasse where she grows the plants that she uses for her perfumes.  When she receives a request from the soon to be princess, it may be what she needs to make her business profitable again.

The history behind the royal wedding is beautifully intertwined with Sophie's story and the story of a photographer named James.  It is told in alternating chapters by Sophie and James whose chance encounter becomes one of the most significant part of their lives.  I loved reading about the spectacle of the wedding between Grace Kelly and her prince but just as interesting were the lives of Sophie and James.

The authors did a lot of research not only into the life of Grace Kelly but as important into the life of a perfumeur with lots of information about creating perfumes.  I loved the earlier book by these authors and this is one more tremendous historical fiction book by them.  I met Heather Webb at a book signing last month and she told the audience that she is working on a new book with Hazel Gaynor which I am definitely looking forward to.

Buy Meet Me In Monaco at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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