Cassandra's Deception
Grade : C-

It's difficult to write a plausible twins-switching-places story. The author must convince the reader that the twins are superb actors and/or that all the characters around them are either blind or so simple-minded that they don't notice anything different about the twin they've supposedly known for a long time. I was not convinced of either of these scenarios while reading Cassandra's Deception. What made it more disappointing is that the place-switching overwhelmed the romance, so that it was difficult to care about the love story.

Twins separated - well, not at birth, but at a young age, when their parents were killed in a tragic carriage accident - Cassandra and Belle Weatherstone reunite when Cassandra is visiting the country neighborhood where Belle lives with their grandfather, Sir Marcus. Eager to make that gentleman's acquaintance, Cassandra readily agrees to take Belle's place for a few hours. Circumstances, however, stretch that time into a few days, then a few more, then a few more, until Cassandra doesn't know how or when she'll be able to extricate herself from the situation.

To add to the difficulty, her manipulative grandfather has summoned his godson Philip Raven, Belle's childhood playmate, to the Hall. Sir Marcus has taken it into his head that Belle needs to be married, and Philip is the man he's chosen for her. Cassandra's nervous, because in spite of her best efforts, she can feel herself attracted to Mr. Raven, and it would never do for her to fall in love with her sister's intended. Besides, there seems to be an air of secrecy about the fellow. What could he possibly have to hide? And why should it matter so to Cassandra? She wonders just how well he knew Belle when they were children, and whether he'll guess that his friend from so long ago is indeed an impostor.

I found it impossible to suspend my disbelief to the point that I accepted the basic premise of the story: that these two women, so dissimilar in everything but appearance, could pull the wool over not one but two sets of people, each of whom had known them intimately for years. Not their grandfather, not their aunt and uncle, not Belle's governess/companion, not any but one of the lowliest servants - aside from a groom, the only one who's on to their deception is Belle's horse! I also kept waiting for either of the sisters to intimate, if only to herself, her anger at having been kept apart for so many years. Even at the end of the story, neither Belle nor Cassandra expresses anything stronger than regret and mild annoyance at both sides of the family for separating them most of their lives.

As for the characters, they're bland and flat. Cassandra and Belle are little more than a collection of cliches. One's raised in the country, athletic, hoydenish, with no interest in the domestic arts, while the other is the epitome of ladylike comportment and genteel housewifery. Think The Parent Trap. The romance between Cassandra and Mr. Raven seems almost secondary to the twin-swapping story, and for that reason it didn't really have much of a chance to capture, let alone hold, my attention. I was so distracted, waiting for someone to glom onto the switch, that I lost interest in the love story.

The other characters, including the hardly memorable hero, are little better. They're not mad when the deception is uncovered (and the manner in which it was uncovered was rather contrived). They barely even scratch their heads at the obvious overnight changes in "Miss Belle." The story might have worked better if Cassandra had found herself in the company of people who were not expected to know Belle. The writing is adequate, and the book is actually decently edited, but there's no sparkle to the tale. If you want to read a bang-up romance about twins swapping places, I recommend The Wild Child by Mary Jo Putney, which uses just such a scenario. It's ever so much more believable.

Reviewed by Nora Armstrong
Grade : C-
Book Type: Regency Romance

Sensuality: Kisses

Review Date : July 6, 2000

Publication Date: 2000

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Recent Comments …

  1. This sounds great. I’ve been reading a lot of historical mysteries lately and loving them, though less Victorian and more…

Nora Armstrong

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