Masquerade by Nancy Moser

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Summary: Lottie, a refined, young lady raised in high society, and Dora, her maid and best friend--set sail from Victorian England on their way to New York City. Lottie is headed for an arranged marriage with Conrad, a man she's never met; but a lifetime of rules and societal conventions have made her restless for freedom and true love. So during their voyage Lottie and Dora cook up a scheme to trade places once they reach America. Finally, Lottie embarks on the life of freedom she's always wanted, while Dora feels like a princess as the future wife of one of New York City's wealthiest bachelors. However, as their deception begins to unravel, both women are faced with tough and heart-wrenching choices.

--- Review ---

Dear Nancy,

This was the first book of yours I read, and it's definitely made me a fan. I feel a little sheepish admitting this, but the cover threw me off at first. In fact I almost passed on the chance to review it, because I expected a simplistic romance without much historical detail or character growth. But I picked it up anyway and I'm so glad I did! (Yes, I should've remembered that trustworthy saying about not judging books by their covers!)

What struck me at first was Lottie's fascination with Sense and Sensibility, Little Women, and Wuthering Heights, and her opinion about Charles Dickens. It felt surreal to see what a girl from 150 years ago might have said about the same classic books and authors that I've read and enjoyed. This raised my hopes that the rest of Masquerade would have more of 19th century culture and social issues woven into it, which it did. I truly love historical fiction that pulls back romanticized visions of history and sets its characters right into the heart of the gritty, multi-layered, paradoxical reality of their time period, which your book does so well. It helps me, as a Christian reader, reflect on my own complicated times where the 'right' answers and decisions are rarely as straightforward as I wish they were.

I found myself emotionally connected to Lottie and Dora, whether I was cheering for them or upset with them for making particularly immature choices, as inexperienced and idealistic young people often do. The struggles you brought Lottie and Dora through, in a way, are also not very different from the struggles young women face in our time. This is another huge strength I appreciate about Masquerade. Your characters were three-dimensional from the start because their challenges didn't only force them to survive in the world, but also to survive inner conflict. Painstakingly they struggled with God, with social norms and pressures, with their dreams, their consciences, their baggage, and their calling. I could relate! And through it all they changed and were sharpened and became more nuanced, wiser, more grounded, and deeply beautiful grown-up young women.

I was especially impressed that you chose to focus on two young people who were born into a familiarity with religion yet lacking a dynamic personal relationship with God, as so many Christian young people are today. Lottie accompanied her parents to church all her life, yet she was still in a spiritual wilderness of sorts. Her personal encounter with God probably mirrors that of many churched kids today. It's a gradual, almost snail-paced, but also very intentional splicing of our identity from our parents', realizing we've been riding their spiritual coattails, so to speak, and have to decide if we want to plant our own two feet on our own journey of faith. It's a different kind of spiritual story to find in Christian fiction, and it's definitely one that needs to be told because of how many of us can relate.

In a way I wish the end of the book hadn't been wrapped up as quickly as it was, because I wanted to know what both women, and all the men in their lives, were thinking and feeling when the last events unfolded and final decisions were made. But overall the story kept me glued to the book, and I loved it. As I wrote above, I'm a fan and I'll be keeping an eye out for your work from now on!

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I want to express my sincere thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the opportunity to review Masquerade. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for writing a review, and I was free to express my honest impressions of the book, whether positive or negative.

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