The Chester Charade

Lady Cecily's Scheme

A Magnificent Match

Tempting Sarah

Cassandra’s Deception
by Gayle Buck
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20037-3
Identical twins who switch identities has been a popular plot for stories since ancient times. Gayle Buck offers a pleasant version of this familiar tale when two sisters decide to exchange lives for a time, with unexpected results.

This exchange is made more difficult because Cassandra and Belle Weatherstone have been separated for years. When their parents died, it was decided that Cassandra should live with her aunt and uncle and Belle should live with her grandfather. Unfortunately, grandfather and uncle are completely estranged. Thus, though the two have corresponded regularly through the years, they have never met, until Cassandra’s family is invited to a houseparty in the vicinity of her grandfather’s home.

The two agree to meet at an abandoned cottage. Cassandra discovers that her grandfather is very ill. She expresses her regret that she has never gotten to know him and Belle comes up with the idea that they pretend to be each other. Belle will get to meet her aunt and uncle and will have a taste of society, something denied her by her reclusive grandfather. Cassandra will have the opportunity to get to know Lord Weatherstone. Thus, the switch is made.

The story follows Cassandra as she struggles to live her sister’s life. Fortunately, her sometimes unaccustomed behavior is credited to her concern with her grandfather’s health. But complications arise when Lord Weatherstone’s godson, Philip Raven, arrives on the scene. Philip had spent some time at the manor when he was young and thus knew Belle. More problematic is the fact that Lord Weatherstone has decided that Belle should marry Philip. Thus, Cassandra finds herself thrown together with this handsome and charming young man, a man who, she discovers, shares many of her interests and values, if not Belle’s.

Cassandra is a nicely drawn character. As she pretends to be Belle, a more independent and self-reliant person, she grows and changes. Philip, perhaps more astute than the rest of the household, has his own doubts about the identity of the young woman who claims to be Belle Weatherstone. While he would have been unlikely to find the Belle he knew as a child attractive, he is drawn to this new “Belle.” But he has his own personal problems to overcome, problems which I felt added unnecessary complications to the story.

Buck’s take on this old familiar plot seems a bit contrived at times and I am not sure that assuming another’s life would go as smoothly as it does for Cassandra. When I try to characterize Cassandra’s Deception, the word pleasant keeps popping into my mind.

--Jean Mason

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