The Other Twin
Generally speaking, by the time I’m finished reading a book, I pretty much know what grade I want to assign in. In five years of reviewing, there have been only a handful of exceptions, and The Other Twin is one of them. Basically, I settled on a C, since none of the other grades fit; the minus is for a very subtle snipe at romance novels, and a writing style that increasingly grated by book’s end.
Does this book have a heroine? No. It’s one of those ensemble cast thingies. Does this book have a hero? Not really, although the men in the cast are intriguing and certainly behave in heroic ways. No, this is not a romance novel, so if you’re in the mood for a change – and happen to have an extra twenty-five bucks you don’t need for groceries or gas – then you may wish to give this book a try.
The title says it all. The other twin. That would be Gwen St. James. Gwen was raised by nuns. Gwen was given to the nuns only hours after her birth. Born with a large port-wine stain on her cheek, the otherwise stunningly beautiful Gwen became a make-up artist and moved to San Francisco, where she meets Dr. Paige Forrester. Paige and Gwen become instant friends.
Yes, Gwen and Paige are twins, separated at birth. The mystery is why. Gwen has felt all her life she was given away because of her deformity, but as the story unfolds, we see that mother Claire Forrester doesn’t even recall having given birth to two babies the night her husband and in-laws were killed in a terrible car accident.
Enter Dr. Cole Ransom, vascular surgeon, and Jack Logan, a highly respected building contractor. Cole falls for Gwen, and vice verse, despite her blemished face. Jack fell for Paige twelve years earlier when they were both students at Stanford, but circumstances kept them from pursuing a relationship. As for Claire, there is Stuart Dawson, an attorney and family friend who has been in love with the widowed Claire for thirty-one years and counting (thirty-one years? and Claire never noticed?).
While The Other Twin does contain romantic threads, the book is mostly about the three women and how Gwen came to be given away that night thirty-one years ago. One of the problems I had with the book is that everyone has either some kind of medical condition or personal trauma that affects their lives. There were just too many people in the cast to deal with each of these effectively, so what the book amounts to is a skeletal outline of dialogue and thoughts. Everybody tells everybody else their stories, which gets pretty boring after a while. There are no hand movements, nobody walks across the room and sits down, nobody arches a brow or quirks a lip. We are given few, if any, physical descriptions of these characters (except we know they are all extraordinarily good looking) and most of the book is written in direct dialogue, almost like a play, but with no scenery or stage direction. I had to go back and forth across the pages to remember who was speaking.
At times, it is emotionally overwrought and even melodramatic. At one point, Gwen jumps to a huge conclusion regarding a possible conspiracy that, had the book continued on in that direction, I would have tossed it in the garbage. Fortunately, she pulled herself out of it, but the entire thread was very much out of place and irrelevant.
The writing style of this book reminded me of Robin Schone’s. If you. Like that kind of thing. Ever. Then perhaps, maybe. Someday. She cried. “Laughed. No. Not today.” Then you might. You know. Enjoy this author’s style. Somewhat. As well. Perhaps.
At one point, a secondary character has fallen far from her purpose. She was meant to be a famous harpist, but has given it all up. Her harp sits, draped, unused, to show how distant she has been removed from her dreams. Next to the harp sits a novel . . . a romance novel. It says, look how far down she’s slid; she’s even resorting to reading . . . romance novels . . . gag-gag. This subtle gibe was unnecessary, and even ironic, especially since this book was sent to a romance site to review.
There are several touching moments in the story (which kept the grade from falling lower), but overall, the book left me vaguely unsatisfied. Everybody’s a victim and some of the descriptions of the dead and dying were painful to read. I know characters must suffer, but I felt some things were gratuitous. If you’re a fan of this doctor/author’s other eighteen novels, all well and good. For several reasons, nothing much here worked for me, certainly nothing worth twenty-five dollars plus tax (hardcover price).