In the waning days of the Great Depression, Celeste Riley wonders if life will always be the same: going to work, coming home to keep house for her widowed father who ignores her. She clings to her married sister, Coralee, and the recurring dream of a blue velvet curtain and a faceless lover who beckons her beyond it.
Then a blue velvet dress in the window of a local department store seems to promise the change in her life she so desperately longs for. When she dances in the arms of traveling salesman Kent Goddard at the Roof Garden, she is sure she has found the man of her dreams and is crushed when he disappears from her life.
Soon after Pearl Harbor propels the United States into war, he returns in uniform as a student at the new bombardier training school. A wartime separation threatens their deepening relationship, and Celeste realizes that what she doesn’t know about the man of her dreams may become her worst nightmare.
Growing up in my West Texas hometown, World War II was still very much part of the fabric of everyone’s life. Most of my friends’ fathers had gone to war--and some hadn’t come home. But there were happier memories, too. I listened to my parents recount evenings spent dancing at the Roof Garden of the St. Angelus Hotel and remembered their enigmatic smiles.
Like so many other historic structures, the hotel was demolished to make room for a modern bank. The bombardier training school where my father had been stationed became the local airport. But remembering the town as I had known it growing up, I knew a story lurked in the now-quiet downtown streets.
I enlisted the help of a local newspaper columnist to find people who still remembered the hotel and the dance pavilion. It took him four separate columns to share all their memories, which were then incorporated into Dancing with Velvet, a story of love and loss and survival during one of the most tragic eras of the twentieth century.
“…a delightful page turner…loved this uplifting story…” says one reviewer.