The Perfect Imposter by Wendy Soliman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Struggling modiste Katrina Sinclair lets herself be talked into switching places with her childhood friend, Julia Dupont, the Marchioness of Lanarkshire, at Lady Marshall's house party in the country. Katrina needs the money Julia's patronage could bring, and she is indebted to Julia's father for saving her from charges of murdering her husband, so she gives in to the emotional blackmail and takes Julia's place for the week. Meanwhile, Leo Kincade, Julia's former fiance, has been tasked with tracking a jewel thief rumored to be planning to steal a tiara from one of Lady Marshall's guests and sell it to aid Napoleon. Leo knows immediately that Julia is not quite herself, and things get even trickier for Katrina when Julia's husband arrives unexpectedly, as does Katrina's vengeful brother-in-law.
This book has so much potential! I really wanted to like it, and I did at first. However, I was reading a galley copy badly in need of one more round of editing. The occasional typos were distracting (i.e. "produce" instead of "product," etc.), but more distracting was the overuse of particular words. Note to Ms. Soliman: if you are going to use a distinctive word like "somnolent," for example, do not use it more than once or twice and definitely not within a few pages of each other.
The use of the word "rumbled" was even more troublesome for me. In context it meant "to expose as a fraud," and yet every single time I read it, my brain substituted the word "tumbled," and I had to back up and re-read the section to clarify that Soliman was not talking about any form of sexual encounter. I'm sure it was exciting to use what I assume to be a historically accurate slang term, but I was yanked out of the story each and every time, which is irritating. Use it once and clearly, and then pull out your thesaurus and get creative from there on out, please!
As for the story itself, the premise was interesting: who was stealing jewels and why was Julia so desperate to sneak away without her husband's knowledge? The trouble I had with it was:
1) The plot holes were huge. (Really?! No one is going to notice a society lady has been replaced by her dressmaker?! Not even her HUSBAND, friends, or former lover?!)
2) The characters' behavior and motivations felt inconsistent. It's one thing to have multi-dimensional characters, it's another to make them lurch from one personality trait to another.
3) The end was confusing (Did I miss something? Why were all these minor characters suddenly appearing, apparently in on the sting? How does it make sense that Julia and her father showed up at the last minute?).
4) One of the Big Secrets was quite obvious to me from the very earliest pages of the book, and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to have figured it out then or not.
For readers' advisors: (historical) setting and story would be my best guess at appeal factors for this one. But I would suggest Mary Balogh, Mary Jo Putney, Julia Quinn, or Eloisa James instead.
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