• The Dark Room

Gabriella by Caragh Bell

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Women’s Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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‘America’s answer to Coco Chanel
That was the dream and nothing would stand in her way’

Gabriella by Caragh Bell is published by Poolbeg Press and is an absolute treat for all looking to escape into the world of fashion and high glamour, following the journey of one very determined young woman with a strong sense of identity and self-belief.

Gabriella Alvarez, born in The Bronx of Puerto Rican descent, has a dream, an ambition to be a successful and recognised fashion designer, America’s answer to the iconic Coco Chanel. But Gabriella’s family live a frugal existence. Her mother is the housekeeper for a very wealthy family and, while her work is appreciated, her income is low. Working all the hours she can manage, she makes enough money for the family to survive but there are no extras, nothing left over at the end of the week. Gabriella’s grandmother, now old and wizened, sees the potential in Gabriella, encouraging her dreams by assisting her in creating one-off pieces and elaborate designs. Resources are limited and Gabriella’s spirits begins to fade but with a singular determination Gabriella successfully garners a scholarship to the highly coveted and very well-renowned Parson’s School of Design on Fifth Avenue.

While studying at the college, Gabriella’s luck continues when she befriends Isabelle Flynn, also a student. Isabelle dreams of becoming a top model, sashaying down international catwalks, with fashion designers baying for her attention. Together, the girls are a formidable team and encourage each other to be brave and take big steps. Isabelle lives in a small apartment that is governed by an old, and very affordable, rent-control deed so she invites Gabriella to be her flat-mate. Living right in New York city opens up wonderful opportunities for Gabriella but she needs to get the attention of a top designer for her ideas to get noticed. With her sights set on Oberon, a fashion designer who is in high demand globally, Gabriella works hard to get to meet him. She sees him as her chance for exposure, her opportunity to excel.

Gabriella takes the reader on whirlwind journey from the streets of The Bronx into the world of the wealthy. Caragh Bell does not shy away from name-dropping. It’s a veritable who’s who of celebrity names and famous places from New York to Cannes to London.

Family. Passion. Dreams. Desire. Jealousy. Fashion. Money. Celebrities. And of course The Bitch! I used to love watching Dynasty and Falcon Crest and this book just took me right back there. It has all the personalities you would expect and of course, it has the romance.

For readers of Caragh Bell’s books you will see familiar characters popping up, as their stories are interwoven across the novels. It is lovely surprise to see what happened to a particular character, how their lives transpired since you last met them.

Gabriella is a joy to read, a really sweet, captivating and fun tale. It is the perfect book to lose yourself in, to curl up with during these dark times. Caragh Bell offers the reader the opportunity to walk alongside Gabriella, a gutsy and impassioned young women with big dreams and a bucket load of tenacity. It’s a delightful trip where you will experience the full gamut of emotions with Gabriella while remaining all the time hopeful that she will fulfill her ambition to be America’s answer to Coco Chanel.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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