Lady Semple's Secret

The London Belle

 
The Rebellious Twin
by Shirley Kennedy
(Signet Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0451198999
***
The Rebellious Twin is a romance with delightful lead characters, interesting and easy to sympathize with. Unfortunately, their charm is greatly diminished by the cast of secondary characters, who are so unrelentingly and predictably nasty that they never rise above cartoonish.

Clarinda Capelle is in trouble -- again. She refuses to dress like her identical twin, Clarissa ("Rissa"), she has no interest in receiving the odious Lord Sufton (himself a twin) as a suitor, and her main joy in life is riding her gelding, Donegal. Her parents are furious and they issue an ultimatum. Either Clarinda falls into line and makes an effort to be more like her perfect sister, or they will sell Donegal and send her off to Wales and her grandfather's bleak estate.

Clarinda agrees in order to keep her horse, and immediately visits her friend Sara Sophia, who lives on the neighboring estate, Hollyridge Manor. Elderly Lord Westerlynn, owner of Hollyridge Manor, has never indicated how he might be related to Sara Sophia, and her lineage is a mystery. Lord and Lady Capelle frown on Sara Sophia, and Rissa will have nothing to do with her, but Clarinda and Sara Sophia are bound together by their deep love of horses. The girls have each other to confide in.

When Lord Westerlynn gambles the estate away to Robert, Lord Stormont, he manages to make it back to the Capelle estate before dying in his carriage. His last act is to extract a promise from Rissa, whom he believes to be Clarinda, that she will pass some vital information and a set of keys to Sara Sophia. Rissa, being the stereotypical evil twin, does no such thing.

Robert arrives, intending to sell the horses and the estate, and is immediately infuriated and smitten with Clarinda, who tells him off. His friend Lucius is equally smitten with Sara Sophia. Rissa decides she wants Lord Stormont and will go to any lengths to get him. And Lord and Lady Capelle make good on their threat to sell Donegal and crush the spirit out of their daughter.

I liked Robert and Clarinda. They are tricked and set upon again and again, yet they manage to create a warm and wonderful friendship and a very believable passion. Too bad they didn't meet on the coast of Wales instead of being plunked down in the nest of vipers that is Clarinda's family.

Clarinda's parents and twin sister are so unrelentingly vicious and awful that they elicit nothing so much as a snort of contempt for such flat characterizations. If her mother was so truly cold and bitchy, why would Clarinda have any loyalty to her? If Rissa was as spoiled and nastily self-serving as she's presented here, why would Clarinda long to be pals with her? And the father is a doormat, not a man to spark the devotion we are told Clarinda feels for him. They just didn't work. I wish they'd sent Clarinda to Wales. Might have made for a better story.

But the secondary romance is fun, Robert and Clarinda do manage to carve out a relationship, and in a nice change from the ordinary, Robert is not at all taken in by Rissa's machinations. There is a fun twist at the ending, too. If you don't mind the "nasty relations" scenario done to fever pitch, you may find The Rebellious Twin right up your alley.

--Cathy Sova


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