Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review: "Masquerade" by Nancy Moser

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.

This book combines several things of what I love about historical fiction: Historical fiction taking place in 1800s England and historical fiction taking place in 1800s New York City. Plus add in talk about fashion of the day and social issues and you can't get any better than that. Honestly, this is the stuff I studied in college and I always love reading more about it especially in historical fiction. There's so much that happened in that time period that almost every story has a unique and different perspective.

Lottie and Dora comes over the US from England. Lottie is a well bred young woman who is on her way to NYC for an arranged marriage to help save her family's name. Dora is her lady's maid and companion who is going with her for moral support. Due to her fear of being trapped in a life she doesn't want, Lottie decides that she and Dora will switch places, allowing Dora to be able to live the high life where she will become an independent woman in America. However things don't go as planned for Lottie and her intentions soon go awry and finds herself in less than desirable situations. I thought it was very interesting to see the look at immigrant life and workhouses from her point of view as all she had been used to was a pampered life. Meanwhile, Dora is having a different time with her masquerade having to remember her new station in life. The family becomes suspicious of her and tensions start to rise.

It made me a bit sad over who Dora chooses in the end because Conrad was just plain nice. A little weak in the beginning but throughout the book he begins to show initiative and stands up for himself. In fact the entire Tremaine family is surprise at the end as every one of them becomes very likable and they all get shafted in the end. I could see this ending coming but I was hoping that things would end up differently but alas it was not meant to be.

There were two minor qualms I had with the book. One is that when Dora switches into Lottie's place, the story begins to refer to her as Charlotte. While I understand that she was in disguise as Lottie, it was greatly confusing since Lottie remains Lottie throughout the story. The reader knows that she is Dora, just because everyone else knows her as Charlotte doesn't mean the reader has to refer to her in that way. I mean it's not as if we can go into the story and accidentally let it be known who she really is. The other was that I didn't feel that Lottie had changed at all by the end of the story. She's still quite spoiled even though she's had to live in the slums of New York and seen how immigrants truly lived. I didn't like the way she treated Dora throughout the book and even at the end, she still sees herself to be superior over her. While her story is interesting, I just didn't feel it be very good character development.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. The historical aspect of the book is fabulous. History fans will enjoy the "Fact or Fiction" section at the end where Moser shows what really happened during that time period with notes from her research. Also there is a section on the fashion talked about through the book with illustrations of the dresses worn during the time period. I must say, even though I would love to go back into history to wear some of these dresses, the thought of having to wear a corset and bustle are not appealing at all. This is great historical read and a good look into the social classes of the time period. It's interesting that even though the US had not gone towards the monarch route, there is still a distinct social class difference between the wealthy and the lower class. A fun read and great learning experience as well. Another winner from Moser.

Masquerade by Nancy Moser is published by Bethany House (2010)

This ARC was provided for a blog tour with the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


  1. Seems like everyone is enjoying this read. I like Moser so I hope to get to this one shortly.

  2. Great review--thanks...running to order it now.

  3. I hesitate to read books like this but it sounds really yummy...


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