Tailor-Made has lighthearted moments like many romance novels, but there are many depths within this novel. There’s steaminess as well, plus it touches on serious subjects such gentrification and difficulties faced by the LGBTQIA+ community.
Grace and Dakota may be the focus of the story, but once you pick up this book, you will find much more than their story alone to enjoy. There is writing that draws you into the story, weaving various aspects into a larger picture that keeps your interest and leaves you wanting more.
Steaminess level: Hot!
Published: 1 December 2017
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Before Grace Henderson began working as a tailor in her father’s bespoke suit shop in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn, she established a hard and fast rule about not dating clients. The edict is an easy one for her to follow, considering the overwhelming majority of the shop’s clients are men. But when Dakota Lane contacts her to commission a suit to wear to her sister’s wedding, Grace finds herself tempted to throw all the rules out the window.
Dakota Lane works as a bicycle messenger by day and moonlights as a male model. Her high-profile career, gender-bending looks, and hard-partying ways garner her plenty of romantic attention, but she would rather play the field than settle down. When she meets sexy tailor Grace Henderson, however, she suddenly finds herself in the market for much more than a custom suit.
Rating: 4 Stars
Rep: Plus size Black Lesbian MC, Genderfluid presenting MC, supporting LGT cast, Filipino side character
CW: some homophobic comments/inferences
The character game is strong in Tailor-Made. Grace, one of the main characters, is a generally no nonsense type of person with a strong head for business. She’s worked her entire life in order to take over her father’s tailor business and while she’s learned everything from him, she doesn’t simply embrace his ideals, she builds upon them and makes her craft her own. Through the questions she asks of Dakota during an interview to make a custom suit, it’s clear that not only does she know what she’s talking about construction wise, but the author does as well.
While reading Tailor-Made, I really got the sense that Wallace had at least more than a passing knowledge when it came to clothes making. During the above mentioned, Grace asks Dakota for details about how she dresses, considers that Dakota’s presentation is genderfluid, and she asks “do you dress left or right?” I didn’t understand this at first and had to Google it. Doing so made me appreciate the detail in the book even more because I realized that Wallace was getting things correct, even if they were seemingly small.
Dakota, the other main character, was an intelligent character that had many personality facets. As a model, she is business savvy, particularly when it comes to modeling. Poignantly aware that there’s a shelf life on that type of career, there’s a secondary career throughout Tailor-Made that took up Dakota’s time, as well as mentions of investments like a gallery or day trader dabbling. Dakota’s strength is also evident in an unwillingness to compromise personal integrity. As a model that specializes in modeling menswear as opposed to women’s clothes, while Dakota could be making a lot more money modeling bikinis and wedding dresses (supermodels raking in top dollar can make millions while male models make significantly less), Dakota isn’t willing to do so just for money. Money is good, but it isn’t the be-all-end-all in their life. Blurring the line between male and female is who Dakota is, whatever anyone else says.
The relationship between the two starts with a good foundation of attraction versus instant love. It felt like a more comfortable, authentic beginning than some stories I’ve read and allowed me to enjoy it more. There’s a good blend of tender moments that illustrate the building blocks of their relationship mixed with increasingly fiery moments of passion. Their conversations, getting to know each other, lead to intimacy and steaminess that would certainly melt a block of ice in the middle of a New York winter, so fans of those scenes won’t be disappointed.
Supporting characters ran the gamut from good people to disappointing. Lillie, a co-worker of Grace’s, was a fully supportive friend that was more family like than anything. An older woman, she kept up the spirits of a much younger person and had an openness that was refreshing. While she made some comments about Dakota and modeling that were a bit crass, that misconception doesn’t last as she gets to know Dakota throughout the book and sees how much Dakota means to Grace, even before either of them is really ready to admit just how much.
Dakota’s family was a mixed bag. Early on, when Dakota is remembering when she came out to her family, there’s a point when her sister Brooke seems like she might be as difficult to like as the rest of Dakota’s family (parents have rigid, old fashioned thoughts regarding “boys should look like boys, girls should look like girls”). Brooke’s reaction is antagonistic at best, but when Brooke comes to New York later in the book for a visit, there’s a real in-depth discussion that reveals a lot more to the situation and a lot of growth on Brooke’s part. It also allows the reader to consider what questioning might mean themselves, whether things that are felt as younger people mean something or evolve into something else as we learn more about ourselves. While Brooke isn’t on the page as much as some of the other characters, she was more developed and experienced more growth.
Grace’s family was, for the most part, tight knit. They live together in a brownstone while having their own spaces within, walk to church every Sunday, and have meals together that can last for hours. They aren’t perfect, though, which is very apparent in eldest sister Hope. Neither Hope nor Faith, Grace’s other sister, are involved in the family business other than profit collecting, but Hope seems particularly selfish in this regard. Regarding some events toward the end of the novel, coupled with her actions during it and especially her snide, borderline homophobic comments, her selfish nature is quite solidified. She might have been confronted at times, but there are no lasting consequences, which was a problem for me.
One of the failings I found in Tailor-Made was, I think, in the resolution of the book. There were some sudden turnabouts of character personalities that didn’t make sense, given what we’d learned about them in the course of the novel. Their endings as detailed in the last few pages didn’t feel earned and thus felt cheap, Hope especially. Even prior to the epilogue there were some choices that I was really confused by, given the setup that the author had made up earlier in the book. I wouldn’t say sloppy in that regard, rather baffling.
Yolanda Wallace, while her bio says that she’s not a professional writer, sure could fool me. This book is really good and was a satisfying read, even if I was kind of unsure about some of the choices made in the narrative.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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