When publishers print the genre of a book on the spine, they really ought to call a spade a spade. Twin Willows is clearly labeled as a romance, but in my mind it most definitely isn’t. Similarly, the back cover has a synopsis that sounds like a romance, but it is actually nothing like the plot of the book. The only excuse that I can come up with for such blatant false advertising is that perhaps the people who were responsible for the cover didn’t read the same book I did. And even judged as fiction, the book is flawed.
The story begins with an intriguing prologue. Silverwillow, a young Delaware Indian woman, gives birth to twin daughters. She then dies from the complications of childbirth. The father of the girls, Ian McKnight, is not an Indian; the grieving midwife knows that he will probably leave the area, taking the babies with him. Because she doesn’t want to lose her last reminder of Silverwillow, she keeps one of the babies for herself, and lets Ian believe that only one baby was born. Ian wasn’t present at the birth, so he doesn’t know any better.
Flash forward seventeen years, and Anna Willow McKnight is at finishing school in Philadelphia while her father serves as a Colonel in the Revolutionary War. Anna is soft-spoken, and often ostracized because of her Indian blood. But Stuart Martin, a tutor at the school and the nephew of the headmistress, thinks Anna is beautiful. He tries to sneak moments with her when his aunt is away. Soon, however, he leaves for Princeton, and Anna graduates from finishing school and journeys to Kentucky to meet her father. Anna and Stuart make plans to meet eventually, but for now they must be apart.
Meanwhile, the other twin, Willow, has made her life with the Shawnee. She has always been different, and has never chosen a husband. Then one day she and Bear’s Daughter, the midwife who has raised her, take a journey to the village where Willow was born, on the way Bear’s Daughter falls ill, and they meet White Eagle, a handsome brave who helps them. Willow and White Eagle decide to marry and live in his village.
Then the Shawnee raid the Kentucky fort where Anna and her father are living, and a bizarre set of circumstances results in Anna and Willow being mistaken for each other and switching places. Anna is taken to Willow’s village, and Willow is taken to the Kentucky Fort by the father she didn’t know she had. Meanwhile Stuart comes to Kentucky, looking for Anna, and White Eagle pines for Willow. Can the twins be reunited with their men without bloodshed?
What did I like about Twin Willows? The idea of the secret twins, and the later switch between the two. What didn’t I like? Everything else. The basic plot wasn’t a bad idea. The initial scenario sparked my interest, and I was curious about how the twins would meet, and how their father would react. The era immediately following the Revolutionary War is an interesting time, and makes a great setting.
But it all went wrong for several reasons. The first was that the main characters were flat and uninteresting, especially Stuart and Anna. Anna started to annoy me in Philadelphia when she wouldn’t stick up for herself after being insulted by Stuart’s bigoted aunt. Stuart irritated me when he graduated from Princeton and told his aunt he was going to Kentucky, but didn’t have the guts to tell her that he was going because he was in love with Anna. Willow and White Eagle were a little better, but not much. Unlike Stuart and Anna, they at least shared some bonding moments before they declared their undying love. But I had to suppress a giggle when Willow speculated about the facts of life, and wondered what a man’s “seed planter” looked like.
But what really bothered me is that the book was billed on the back cover as a romance between Stuart and Anna, which it most definitely is not. The story is not about this couple falling in love, but more about Anna going to Kentucky and getting mixed up with her sister. Stuart and Anna spend virtually the entire book separated from one another, so their relationship never develops at all. Their are only a handful of scenes with them together, but there are many uninteresting scenes in which we hear Anna’s thoughts about how much she misses Stuart. There is one warm love scene between them at the very end, and I wanted to yell, “Stop that, you two! You hardly know each other!”
When I first saw Sleepless in Seattle, I didn’t enjoy it much because I didn’t know the whole movie was going to be about the hero and heroine meeting. Maybe if I had known not to expect a romance between Anna and Stuart I would have liked Twin Willows more. Maybe – but I doubt it.