Gwyneth Greer: Romance for the Tender Heart

Movements are as eloquent as words.

~~Isadora Duncan 

Dancing with Velvet 

By day, nineteen-year-old Celeste Riley works at Woolworth as an assistant bookkeeper. Then she goes home to cook and keep house for her widowed father, a prominent banker and weekend alcoholic.  One afternoon, when she goes to pay on her Christmas lay-away at a local department store, she is captivated by a blue velvet evening dress. Impulsively, she adds it to her account and wonders if she'll ever have an opportunity to wear it. 

Persuaded by two friends who also work at Woolworth, and wearing the dress of her dreams, she accompanies them to a dance at a local hotel where she meets Danny Duncan, a traveling salesman for a plumbing company. She can hardly wait for his route to bring him back to town in January, but when she arrives at the monthly dance, he isn't there. Instead, waiting for her at the desk, is a letter addressed to the girl in the blue velvet dress. He explains that he's been assigned a new route and won't be coming back.

A year passes. After Pearl Harbor, Celeste volunteers to help staff the local USO. On the night it opens, Danny, now assigned to the loal bombadier training school, reappears in her life. They spend ever available moment together, and Danny proposes just before he is sent overseas. When Celeste's father learns of her engagement, he attacks her so viciously that she is hospitalized. Danny's widowed mother Dorothy invites her to move to Danny's hometown and live with her. Celeste's boss arranges for her to work at the Woolworth in her new home.

When Danny is reported MIA after his plane goes down, Celeste is further devastated by the reappearance of a girl that Danny dated briefly in high school. Ginger returns home with a little boy who she claims is Danny's son. Eventually Ginger succeeds in causing Celeste to lose her job by spreading rumors of wild behavior. Encouraged by Dorothy, Celeste returns to college to obtain a teaching degree. There she meets a young instructor, Kent Goddard, and they become close friends.

The war ends, and Danny surfaces--minus both legs but anxious to get on with his life. He gives Celeste a ring, but their happiness is short-lived. Ginger goes to court claiming that they are married and that he is the father of her son. Celeste stands by Danny--and Kent stands by her, but she knows that her relationship with Danny, the man she loves, and with Kent, the good friend she treasures, will never be the same.

When Ginger commits suicide, Danny sends Celeste away "until talk dies down". With miles between them, she questions Danny's love and her own loyalty...and her growing affection for Kent.

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