As I have stated before, historical fiction is above and beyond my favorite genre, especially those that take place in old Victorian England. There is something about the elegance and etiquette of this time period that is second to none. Could you imagine having to present your "card" to a friend's maid to be "announced" to her? When was the last time you wrote a "letter" to your friend instead of a text or e-mail?
Girl in a Blue Dress has fictional characters; however, Arnold states that she drew her inspiration from the family life of Mr. Charles Dickens himself. There seems to be no greater Dickens scholar than she; yet, by her own admission, she took many liberties in extending the truth and filling-in-the-blanks. The novel begins with the end - the funeral of England's most admirable author, Alfred Gibson. He has long been separated from his "widow", Dorothea, the narrator of the story. Dorothea's flashbacks to her happy beginnings with Alfred, the births of many, many children with him, and finally, their painful separation, make up the gist of the novel. However, it is the inner torture of Alfred (as it is with many creative souls) that Gaynor seems to want to make the heart of Girl in a Blue Dress.
It is interesting that I immediately made a comparison in my mind with this novel to The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. Both authors should be highly commended for their efforts and incomparable research. However, as with Whicher, I found myself looking at the clock, wanting this to end. It is just too long and wordy, with endless meetings upon meetings between the characters. Dorothea meets with one person for twenty pages to bare her soul, then she meets with another person for twenty pages. If you like novels with great character development, then this is the book for you. However, if you want some sort of plot to go with those characters, I would advise you to look elsewhere.
MY RATING - 4 for effort, 3 for readability