Review: The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag

The Dress Shop of Dreams: A Novel by Menna Van Praag

Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York, 2014

 Description (from

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

My Review (4 Stars: Liked it a lot!)

The Dress Shop of Dreams: A Novel by Menna Van Praag is a sweet romance with magical realism.  The multiple romance parts while enjoyable were fairly predictable, but the magic was not.  Eta owns a dress shop that among other things changes color with changing times and plays music depending on who is there and what state they are in.  Eta’s dresses open up new and exciting possibilities for the women who come into the shop, no matter their circumstances in life.

Eta works her magic on her granddaughter, Cora, whose heart has been closed since her parents died when she was five.  Before Cora can open her heart for love, she needs to learn more about the tragic circumstances concerning her parents death.

As new characters are introduced, we see additional themes about lost opportunities and forgiveness come into play.

Overall this was a very pleasant read.  I enjoyed opening my mind to the possibilities of magic that author, Menna Van Praag shows us.

First Line

“When ordinary shoppers stumble into the little dress shop, they usually leave without buying anything.”

What Are Others Saying (from the author’s website)

Whenever a woman steps into the little dress shop, she finds that opening its little blue door is the very best decision she’s ever made. She isn’t looking for the perfect cocktail dress, the jeans that will lengthen their legs or the skirt that will slim their silhouette. No, she’s looking for much more than that; she’s looking for a lost piece of herself. Which is exactly what Etta Sparks can give her.

“Big-hearted, beautiful and brushed with magic, this novel celebrates life’s moments of joy, possibility and transformation. Menna van Praag’s writing is bright with sparkles and lovely grace notes.”

— Susan Wiggs, Bestselling Author of The Beekeeper’s Ball


I would like to thank author, Menna Van Praag, the She Reads Organization and the publisher,  Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House,  for providing me with this book, free of charge, for review.

The Dress Shop of Dreams: A Novel by Menna Van Praag is one of She Reads’ Books of Winter.  Visit SheReads’ page to read more about their winter selections  @ 2015 She Reads’ Books of Winter.


Disclosure of Material Connection: 

I received this book free from the publisher, Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, as a member of the She Reads Network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


  1. I’m not usually a fan of magical realism, but I do enjoy books by Sarah Addison Allen, so I may pick this one up. As long as the magic doesn’t overwhelm in the story, I think I’ll be good with it.


  2. Next to a book shop a dress shop comes in second. So the two in one book equals immediate interest. Glad you enjoyed it, I like a little magical realism and this one sounds like it has unexpected outcomes. Putting it on my list.


  3. This sounds like an enjoyable book, Pat. I am curious about the magical aspect(s) you mention. Lovely review! I hope to read this one once my schedule lets up a bit.


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