The Adventures of the Red Velvet Dress -A new novel by Dorothy McLean


The Adventures of the Red Velvet Dress, is the saga of three independent women in mid-nineteenth century America as they struggle to gain independence within the post Civil War constraints and how the Red Velvet Dress was witness to their interrelated conflicts and a talisman for their struggle to succeed.  The action carries you with them from rural Michigan to Fort Laramie on the Oregon Trail and the silver and copper mines of Jerome, Arizona, and then finally back to Michigan.

The story follows the lives of these three women, Sarah Bachmann Bauer, Elizabeth Bauer and Lacey Dare Miles as they find adventure, face the challenges in their lives and loves, and clash with the sexist culture of their time:

SARAH, orphaned and sent to live with her grandfather and influenced by the abolitionist/suffragette leanings of her teachers at the Young Ladies Academy her grandfather sends her to and yearning for a life as a progressive woman, Sarah seeks independence from her grandfather’s tyranny by marrying easy-going Otto Bauer. She scandalizes the town of Newport, Michigan when she wears the red velvet dress to the annual Fireman’s Ball.  Crushed by her grandfather’s criticism, she is determined to leave Michigan and find independence in the West.  Her impulsiveness leads to adventures with the Underground Railroad, trekking the hazardous Oregon Trail to Fort Laramie, trying to tame the harsh, unpredictable life on the frontier, being beaten by blizzards and grasshoppers, and finally giving up and convincing Otto to move on again; this time to the silver and mining town of Jerome, Arizona.  Never achieving her goal to gain independence quickly enough, she abandons Otto and Elizabeth and finally dies on the streets of San Francisco.

ELIZABETH isabandoned by her mother and ignored by her father, who can think only about striking silver and bringing Sarah back home.  Orphaned when Otto is killed and his mining claim is stolen, she escapes being raped by her father’s killer by seeking refuge with the Chinese family that had helped her survive after her mother ran away.  Although subconsciously determined to fulfill her mother’s dream of returning to Michigan as a successful woman, she learns patience and perseverance from wise Madam Singh.  Her journey leads her from the Chinese enclave to the arms of miner who vows to love her forever, then strikes silver and returns home to Ohio and his wife.  She finally becoming the richest woman in Jerome as the proprietor of the “Flower House”, a fancy brothel and gaming house.  Along the way she meets Daniel Reilly, whom she loves but fears will keep her from fulfilling her mother’s dream.  Finally, she knows she must return to Michigan to discover just why the dream was so important to her mother.  Her struggle to find happiness while focusing on the dream is a story filled with strong characters and life-changing events set in the exciting era of American growth and settlement of the West.

LACEY, the headstrong, sixteen year old daughter of the Fort Verde surgeon, is terrified that her father plans to change her willful, Tom-boyish way and make her a ‘lady’ by sending her to a proper Boston finishing school when he retires from the Army.  After overhearing her parents talk about the scandalous “Flower House Madam”, Lacey runs away to Jerome and begs Elizabeth to take her in.  After Dr. Miles disowns his daughter when he hears of her destination, Elizabeth allows Lacey to play the piano and chat with her gentlemen ‘guests’ during the early evening social hour.   Bert McNamara, a young mining engineer becomes smitten with Lacey and convinces Elizabeth to allow him to take Lacey on a ‘honeymoon’ to the Grand Canyon.  Amid the grandeur of the Grand Canyon and the panorama of Arizona mountain ranges Bert and Lacey fall in love, but Lacey, terrified of becoming a docile wife like her mother, refuses to marry Bert.  After Bert’s project in Jerome is completed he moves on and Lacey finds she is pregnant.  She and her Indian friend, Birdsong open Blossoms, a family-style restaurant in the Flower House and Lacey begins to appreciate her mother’s wisdom and the difficulty of raising a child and working full time.  As she matures and accepts her responsibilities, she reflects on her choices and comes to understand that no one is ever completely free, and true freedom comes from within.

The interrelated stories of Sarah, Elizabeth and Lacey, and the fully-drawn characters they meet throughout their rebellious journeys, lead us from a comfortable farm in Michigan to the vast skies, howling winds, seas of grass and sod huts of Wyoming and on to the mining camp of Jerome and the extravagant opulence of the “Flower House”.   As you read The Adventures of the Red Velvet Dress you will be captivated by their stories, applaud the unquenchable spirit of these women and think, “Only in America”.

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