The Deed

The Key

 
The Switch by Lynsay Sands
(Leisure, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-8439-45656
****
Charlie and Elizabeth Westerly have no choice but to run away. The twin sisters have been under their Uncle Henry’s guardianship ever since the death of their parents four years earlier, and in that short time he has squandered their inheritance. To make some money, he decides to wed the girls off -- for a price, of course.

Elizabeth does not want to marry the older, fatter, and perverted Lord Seguin, but Charlie’s future groom might as well be a death sentence. Her uncle wants to marry her to Lord Carland, a man who has abused three wives already. Lord Carland wants a wife #4, because the first three all died before producing him an heir. Twin girls traveling alone would be dangerous and attract attention; to aid their flight, Charlie disguises herself as a boy.

While escaping out a window, Charlie and Elizabeth meet Lord Jeremy William Richards, Earl of Radcliffe. Radcliffe, genuinely concerned, decides to escort them to London and aid them in their flight. At first reluctant, the girls soon find that being escorted is probably wiser than traveling alone. They also realize that Radcliffe’s connections and resources can only benefit them.

Knowing that they cannot keep up the charade for long, they decide that finding husbands as soon as possible is the only answer. Once married off to men of their own choosing, their uncle will have no control over them. To make sure they both have equal courting time, the girls decide to take turns masquerading as the brother.

While Elizabeth and Charlie take turns being the boy, it is Charlie’s experiences in disguise and her relationship to Radcliffe that are the meat of The Switch. Poor Charlie manages to find more drama and conflict while in disguise, and is truly ingenious getting herself out of tricky situations.

Radcliffe is a truly likable hero. He is attracted to Charlie when she is playing both “Elizabeth” and “Charles” and the poor man gets rather confused. The thought of being attracted to a boy disturbs him and he feels guilty when he’s attracted to the girl he’s protecting. A quiet and reserved man, he soon discovers his adventurous side thanks to Charlie’s escapades.

While I enjoyed The Switch, it took me nearly a week to get a third of the way through the book. Besides Elizabeth and Charlie switching roles, and Charlie’s humorous visit to a brothel, there wasn’t much early to keep me glued to the pages. Outside conflict is later introduced, and that’s when I found myself sucked into the story.

The switching of roles and Charlie’s time disguised as a boy really cut into the romantic encounters. Outside of some steamy kisses and a brief love scene, there isn’t much romance between the two. What would have made this book a keeper for me would have been more romantic encounters for Charlie and Radcliffe and a much lengthier confrontation with Uncle Henry. His all too brief appearance cheats the reader out of a potentially dramatic scene.

Those minor complaints aside, The Switch is a fun, humorous historical romp that had me laughing out loud at Charlie’s antics. I look forward to reading more of Sand’s work in the future.

--Wendy Crutcher


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