By Nancy Moser
Genre: Christian Fiction
Published 2010, Bethany House
Paperback, 394 pages
1886, New York City: Charlotte Gleason, a rich heiress from England, escapes a family crisis by traveling to America in order to marry the even wealthier Conrad Tremaine. She soon decides that an arranged marriage is not for her and persuades her maid, Dora, to take her place. What begins as the whim of a spoiled rich girl wanting adventure becomes a test of survival amid poverty beyond Charlotte's blackest nightmares. As for Dora, she lives a fairy tale complete with gowns, jewels, and lavish mansions--yet is tormented by guilt and the presence of another love that will not die. Will their masquerade be discovered? Will one of them have second thoughts? There is no guarantee the switch will work. It's a risk. It's the chance of a lifetime.I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this novel by the end of it. The beginning is a bit slow and dry, as Moser sets up the background information and almost struggles to get the reader to "side" with the main character Charlotte Gleason by using her maid's voice to excuse Charlotte's "spoiled rich girl" behavior. I really have a hard time buying the lines that Charlotte really is a good person even though she chooses to be naive about the world she lives in because she feels helpless to enact change. But what happens to her family to force her to travel to America is just the thing to wake her up to the real world and her own responsibilities in it.
I feel much more sympathetic to Dora Conners' plight, as she has little to no say in her life and what Charlotte forces on her, even if it does seem to benefit Dora in theory. To be forced into a position in which she has to lie about who she is and where she is from by her "boss" is atrocious, no matter how much a "friendship" has been built between them. In addition, the endgame is that she is expected to give of her own body to a man in marriage who does not even know who she really is - it's completely shameful.
The parallel way that the story is told once the girls get to America is quite interesting, especially how their paths intersect in seemingly coincidental ways, such as the sweat shop where Charlotte works temporarily manufacturing the clothes that Dora orders from the Tremaine's department store. The more that Charlotte suffers and the guiltier she feels for the lies she has told and has also forced on Dora makes me like her more for the maturation in character she experiences.
In contrast, I have a hard time blaming Dora for the choices she has to make while living in the Tremaine household given her circumstances. She was made to come to this place and perform to certain expectations, and she has no backup plan should she decide to do otherwise. The guilt she feels despite her lack of personal choice in the matter only make her more likeable to the reader. Given where she is from and what is being handed to her, there are not many who would fault her for going along with the "masquerade."
In the end, the goal of both girls is true love over financial stability, and since I am a romantic at heart, I can't help but approve of the ending.
The Cover: I don't know much about fashion from 1886, but this looks like a maid's uniform under an expensive cloak, which hints at the switch that Charlotte Gleason and Dora Conners achieve through the course of the book. I like it.
First Line: "I've told you, Father, I won't marry him."
This is a great opening line, since it is the simplest way to express what drives Charlotte Gleason to do all that she does in the novel.
Favorite Quote: "I'm not going to argue God's ways with you, but if I were Him, I would've at least placed the child in the path of someone who has a home and a husband with a well-paying job."
His logic annoyed her. "Perhaps He did, but that person chose not to take him."
"So you're God's second choice?" He looked far too amused.
"Never, Mr. Svensson."
Read For: Pages Read Challenge
*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*