About the book:
Eighteen eighty-six, 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 have read several enjoyable "Gilded Age" stories this past year. This one was good. I liked the premise of the rich girl and the maid switching places and trying to pretend to be what they were not. Their masquerade didn't work out well for either of them. Lying just complicated their lives. On the other hand, God did take care of them...probably because He knew that they would come clean. The author did a great job of showing that God does have His eyes on us and does listen when we call on His for help.
Some things about this story were amazing, like the settings. The stuffy families and the societal rules all rang true for me. The author did a great job with the culture as well. I felt like I was in the tenements with the characters as well as in the mansion with Charlotte, AKA Dora. I enjoyed watching the characters' personalities transform because of their faulty situation and how they learned to be less self-focused and more other-focused, especially the character who grew up rich and traded places with her maid. Their names switched several times so it got a bit confusing, but I was able to follow along.
I am not sure that I totally bought into Lottie's complete transformation, though I can see how her circumstances could rub down those rough edges and make her a more caring person. I can also see how being exposed to children taught her that she had a heart for them. In the realm of the wealthy, children are treated very differently than in the world of the poor. It was heart wrenching for me when Lottie found the abandoned baby. Especially when there was a Foundling home not far away. (I used to work for CPS and people still abandon babies in this generation.)
At any rate, I really enjoyed the story and the romantic threads entwined in the lives of both women and their men. While the ladies went about things the wrong way, God redeemed their situations. That was what made the book special to me. They came clean and were rewarded for repenting and turning their lives around. I still felt bad for The Tremaines, however, because they got the short end of the stick.