Let me explain. This book should not be advertised as "romance" or a story where cousins switch identities. I read the back of the book, which claimed Ms. I hated the beginning.
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Much better. There was a soft knock on the door. On impulse, Ariel messed up her hair. She liked what she saw. The maid looked behind her to make sure Mrs. Ariel grabbed her brush and smoothed her hair, then she smiled.
Still smiling, she left her room and started down the stairs. If only Sara would agree. She must! Ariel thought. Ariel wanted to trade places with Sara. She wanted to be Sara, and Sara to be her. Or time to plan anything, for that matter. Time to do anything other than whatever your egomaniac boss could think up for you to do? And then there was the fact that she was constantly telling her boss that she was quitting.
If she quit, how long would it be before she got another job? What would it be like to have a dress made just for you? Sara wondered. She looked down at the letter. Poor Ariel, so spoiled, everything given to her.
The whole idea was absurd, of course, but it was nice to daydream. Not just see it as a tourist would, but see it from the inside. She wanted to make her own judgment about the place. What would happen when she finally told them who she was? Would they welcome her—or hate her? Getting to know the people of Arundel sounded good in theory, but the truth was, she was afraid of the place. He told Sara that her mother had been one of the bluebloods, one of the elite, the four hundred, whatever he could think of to call them, but she had fallen in love with him—and that had been the end of her.
She died in a car wreck when Sara was three, and her father finally drank enough to kill his body when she was seventeen. Sara looked back down at the letter. She was just finishing her freshman year of college when she met Ariel for the first time. Sara had been in the study room of her coed dorm, up all night cramming for finals.
She was in her usual uniform of sweatpants and a stained sweatshirt, and her feet were encased in worn-out running shoes. Not that Sara ever ran. Or did any exercise. Like most college students, she lived on pizza and Coke. At first Sara felt, rather than saw, Ariel. It was like when people say they feel a ghost. When Sara looked up from her book, the room was silent, and everyone was staring at a young woman standing in the doorway.
Sara wondered if she wanted her to cut her lawn. Growing up, Sara had been the kid who cut the lawns and pruned the boxwoods. She was the kid who baby-sat. The perfect young woman sat down carefully on a stone bench under a flowering dogwood.
She stared at Sara for a few moments, then told her they were cousins. Sara smiled at that. Never had she looked like this woman did. I hope it was all right to just show up.
I really wanted to meet you. Could she really be related to this beautiful creature with her perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect everything?
Ariel reeked of money, education, and manners. Sara had a flash of memory of her own father sprawled on the couch, snoring in a drunken stupor. For a moment the two young women sat in silence, then Ariel looked at her watch—a tiny thing of gold and diamonds. Something about the way she sighed made Sara decide that there was more to Ariel than she saw on the surface. Yes, she sat perfectly straight, and yes, she wore clothes that had probably been on a runway, but maybe, just maybe, there was a person inside.
Tell me everything about your life. Ariel was a good listener and a good storyteller. While they talked, Sara studied Ariel as though she were a specimen under a microscope. Her gestures—the way she sat on the bench with her back straight and her ankles crossed—was something out of a s charm school. Sara, her legs folded on the concrete seat, often pushed the hair out of her eyes, but Ariel sat straight and still, and her perfect pageboy haircut never so much as moved in the breeze.
Sara looked at the way people on campus stopped and stared at Ariel. A group of rowdy boys, obviously laughing over something dirty, saw Ariel and instantly became young gentlemen. Suddenly, Ariel got up. How can you be a different class than I am? Me the same class as this perfectly dressed young woman? What a ridiculous concept; what a divine thought. She handed it to Sara, who looked in astonishment at a truly gorgeous man. In college she was surrounded by masses of good-looking people, but this man was in a class all his own.
To her waiting limo? Ariel waved her hand over her shoulder, then was out of sight. Sara stood there for a while, staring into space. Her cynicism made her wonder what it was that Ariel really wanted. The photo of the unwanted David was still in her hand. She slipped the picture into her pocket, then headed back toward the dorm, but when she got to the door, she stopped. But the head of the drama department was known as a real bastard.
To get into his department you had to prove to him that you were worthy. You had to do this in front of him and all his students, and Sara was told that his criticism was brutal, meant to humiliate. More than one student had left the university after just five minutes with him. But as she had her hand on the door into the dorm, on impulse, she turned away and started toward the drama department. Sara knew that at the moment she looked her worse, but that was good.
If she could imitate Ariel while looking as bad as she did, then she knew she could get into that department.
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Carolina Isle by Jude Deveraux (2006, Paperback)