Book Review: Painted Dresses by Patricia Hickman
by Julie Failla Earhart
I recently reviewed Patricia Hickman’s eighth novel, The Pirate Queen, remarking that I couldn’t wait to read her other works. Thanks to the Saint Louis Public Library, I was able to follow through on this intent with her seventh novel, Painted Dresses.
Gaylen Syler-Boatwright has come back to her hometown to bury her father and settle his estate. She can’t afford to stay too long as her marriage to her pilot husband is on the verge of annihilation. In addition, she dreads the one thing that she anticipates inheriting: her sister, Delia. Delia isn’t mentally or physically handicapped, but she does need watching over because of her lack of boundaries. She acts and says whatever she feels like without any ounce of responsibility.
After Delia shoots a boyfriend’s wife, Gaylen packs her off to a deceased aunt’s remote mountain cottage. There they find an odd collection of painted dresses: dresses dipped in paint, designs painted on them, then framed without glass. However, the dresses aren’t any old dresses; they each have a family story. The sisters pack up the dresses and head out to return them to family members, while staying ahead of the law.
The plot was interesting. For such a seasoned novelist, I found the arc dipping and curving as much as the roads Gaylen and Delia traveled. Sometimes it was fun and entertaining; other times, it was boring with nothing new to look at. Compared to The Pirate Queen, this novel is a huge disappointment due to its lack of any real tension. I never felt that Delia was incapable. Shemay have been spoiled rotten, but could take care of herself. Though the painted dresses were a unique addition, it was Gaylen’s actions that ultimately made the story difficult to fall for.