As summer races forward, there are still some weeks left to enjoy a lovely novel before the fall schedule starts up in a few weeks. An option to consider is the 2022 release of Kristy Woodson Harvey’s book, The Wedding Veil.
When I first learned about this book, I was interested from the start with a lovely bride with a lengthy train pictured in front of The Biltmore Estate we visited a few years ago and Kristy’s story did not disappoint. It features a group of women (past and present) in one family who share an heirloom wedding veil that carries the tradition of a long and happy marriage to the women who wore it. When Julie Baxter leaves her groom at the altar on her wedding day, the stage is set for Julie to try to discover how she could have broken the family tradition.
Julie escapes to the shock of her mother with the help of her grandmother, Babs, on a trek to the island where she was supposed to honeymoon to sort out why she would stop wedding with someone she had known for years in an “on and off” relationship. She keeps remembering her grandmother’s words at the recent wedding shower at The Biltmore Estate Conservatory, “It’s the surprises that direct our paths.” Was that a clue? Her grandmother had known such a great love of her husband, Julie’s grandfather until he died and now the fairy tale legend of the family heirloom wedding veil had been destroyed by her. What was she really doing here?
The Wedding Veil weaves the story of Julie’s search for answers along with her grandmother’s challenge to find a new life as a widow together as Julie recalls her trips to The Biltmore Estate and recalling how much their family’s wedding veil looked like the one she saw on display that belonged to the Vanderbilt women of fame and fortune. Certainly, it could not look so similar that it could be the very same veil.
Kristy Woodson Harvey skillfully adds another story line along with those of Julie and Babs beginning in 1879 with a sweet six-year-old girl, Edith, playing in her mother’s bedroom as she prepared to dress for a formal party. In the whimsical scene the six-year-old is given a chance to try on a beautiful wedding veil that has been passed down through generations in her family and would one day be hers and when she was married she would pass it on to her daughter.
As this parallel story unfolds, Edith marries George Vanderbilt one day and continues the socialite wealthy family tradition but in a different location from where she had grown up. She leaves New York to travel to the place George prefers – Asheville, North Carolina – where he has amassed many acres to build an estate of a different style and kind than the wealthiest of New York society.
The Wedding Veil masterfully connects the stories of Julie, Babs, Edith, and Cornelia as they love, lose, and face life with tenacity for as Cornelia says, “…a life without passion isn’t worth living at all.” In the midst of all that Julie and Babs discover the true story of the heirloom wedding veil.
The Author’s Notes will clarify the historical research done to tell this story and which parts of it fit the history of the Vanderbilt family and The Biltmore Estate and which ones are of her own creativity neatly fit into the history. You get glimpses of the famous Vanderbilt women that you may miss on your next visit to the estate.
This is a great read that moves easily from different main characters to different time periods. It could give you many delightful hours before summer runs out.