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Review: "The Butterfly Dress" by Miranda Koerner

The Butterfly Dress is available at Amazon.

Girlebooks has published both modern romances and fairy tales, but I believe this is the first time we have published both in the same novel. When reading this delightful tale, our reader will at once believe this is the Cinderella tale retold in modern times, down to the much-sought-after magic shoes. On closer inspection, our reader will see a reality show in the making, then perhaps a romance with a little Rocky thrown in for good measure. The Butterfly Dress is hard to classify, but that should encourage our reader to revel in this tale. Its resistance to categorization makes this tale more enjoyable.

For me, an avid seamstress and gardener with a not-so-secret addiction to pizza and donuts, harboring fantasies about large greenhouses and billowy prom dresses, the story spoke to all my weaknesses. Perhaps it may find a few of yours.

Flora Oak, a designer of formal gowns, takes design classes at a local college from a professor who is a close approximation of the Wicked Witch of the West (wrong tale, but you get the picture.) When not in class, Flora works in a dress shop for a mother who resembles Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother. Flora works hard, eats large, and is so accustomed to her superiors calling her a failure that she accepts those opinions without question.

One day she is asked to create a gown for Eleanor Nottingham, the duchess of local society. Eleanor will wear the dress to the annual Nottingham coronation ball. Flora’s self-doubts prompt her to resist that assignment until Mrs. Nottingham sends a horse-driven carriage take her to the Nottingham estate. There Flora meets a possible Prince Charming, but complications abound before she can reach her happy ending.  The story’s conclusion will drift more toward Fractured Fairy Tales than the Brothers Grimm, and more power to it!

On a personal note, when Laura assigned me this book she told me that Miranda lived in my city: San Antonio, Texas. After reading the book, I simply had to interview her in person. Being employed by the local newspaper, Miranda was amused at the prospect since she is usually the person doing the interviewing. We met at Starbucks and had a lovely time discussing the book.

Q: It is hard to read your book without getting hungry. Pizza, donuts, toasted peanut butter sandwiches, cookies hidden under the bed, waffles, cheesecake--are you a foodie?

A: Actually, all that started because the first people to follow my blog were food bloggers! When I was working at a local community newspaper, I did a lot of stories on restaurants, so I was always writing about food! I think a lot of women tend to bond over food and seek comfort over food, which is why Flora is always dining with Jackie. It's not much fun eating pizza and pancakes alone, you know?

Q: Have you lived long in San Antonio? If so, was your experience with the societal conventions here (and the stratified society, as well as the fiesta coronation) part of your inspiration?

A: I've lived here for six years. We moved here straight after college--my husband and I graduated, moved and married within two weeks after graduation! I was introduced to Alamo Heights after I began working for the paper here, but it had nothing to do with The Butterfly Dress.

Q: You have many garden elements in your story, including the names of your characters--Oak, Heather, Flora, Tulip--and then there is Jackie who is the environmental science major who wants to save the world with butterfly gardening. Then there is the design studio that was formerly a greenhouse. What inspirations did you follow for these elements, and are you an avid gardener yourself?

A: I've always loved nature and loved gardens. I hate winter because everything dies and I can't be outside as much--I take at least two long rambling walks a day and love swimming in the summer. My dream is to have a huge garden with a gazebo and a bench where I can sit and daydream on pretty days!

Q: You seem to know a lot about dressmaking, especially formal dress. Does your knowledge come from research or experience?

A: My mother and sister are avid needle pointers and my mother used to sew all our Halloween costumes. My favorite was a dress based off Sleeping Beauty that I wore from 4-7 (it didn't fit that great at 7 but I loved it!) I love the art of sewing and would love to design, but have no patience or skills!

Q: Have you published or written other books?

A: I self-published three books, available on my blog A Duck in her Pond (www.aduckinherpond.com). My middle grade novel Deep Blue Mermaid is coming out in April from Turquoise Morning Press.

Q: Are you now or have you ever been a bookworm? (The library scene in the Nottingham mansion in The Butterfly Dress was a nice touch, especially for our readers.)

A: I am THE bookworm. My office is stuffed with all my childhood books and I go to the library at least once a week. It's not uncommon for me to bury my nose in a book on my long rambling walks--I've run into a lot of trees.

Q: What book most influenced you when you were growing up?

A: Madeline L'engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.

Q: What inspired you to write The Butterfly Dress?

A: My mother bought me a sundress in a boutique and I was wearing it out to dinner one night and just had this vision of a woman in a dress made of butterfly wings. That's how Flora began. (See photo).


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