Monday, April 13, 2015

'The Captive Imposter' by Dawn Crandall


2015 Reading Challenge, Week 15 - A book by an author you've never read before.
I don't always read the third book of a trilogy first, but this time I enjoyed doing so. I'm looking forward to reading more by Dawn Crandall in the future. 

Sent away for protection, hotel heiress Estella Everstone finds herself living undercover as a lady’s companion named Elle Stoneburner at one of her father’s opulent hotels in the mountains of Maine—the one she'd always loved best and always hoped to own one day, Everston. The one thing she doesn't like about the situation is that her ex-fianc√© is in the area and is set on marrying someone else. Reeling from her feelings of being unwanted and unworthy, Estella reluctantly forms a friendship with the gruff manager of Everston, Dexter Blakeley, who seems to have something against wealthy young socialites with too much money, although they are just the kind of people Everston caters to. 

I was invited to read this third book of a trilogy, curious to see if it could stand alone, and maybe even intrigue me to read the first and second books too. From the first page, I had the impression that the heroine, Estella Everstone, had been featured in the two prequels as a younger, more minor character. This time it's her own story, which she tells in first person, with many twists and turns, changing attitudes, revelations and changes in fortune.

I like the Great Gatsby sort of atmosphere the story evokes. It takes place in a similar setting, on America's east coast, in the gilded era time period. Like Fitzgerald's classic, many of these characters have worked hard to achieve the prosperity they're enjoying. Estella is the youngest child of wealthy hotel magnate Bram Everstone, but begins the story travelling incognito as Elle Stoneburner, hired companion to an elderly widow, Mrs Granton. In the course of her duties, she's forced to return to Everston, her favourite of her wealthy father's mountain hotels.

The narrative makes it clear how hard Estella/Elle must work to keep her identity concealed. Her predicaments are often amusing to read about. One on side, she admires the handsome hotel manager, Mr Dexter Blakeley, but senses that his opinion of young women born into fortune isn't very high. On the other side, Jay Crawford, the ex-fiance who broke her heart, is around the place too. As Elle is so busy with this dance between identities, it takes her by surprise to consider that Mr Blakeley may be concealing a few secrets of his own, not to mention the desperate and needy young women beneath his roof.

Talking about him, the heroine's first impression of the hero has to be among my favourites. Through a stagecoach window, Elle notices 'his chiselled, almost statuesque face which consisted of sharp, drastic angles.' It's set off by 'dark hazel, brooding eyes that seemed to cut into everything he turns his gaze upon.' However, at this stage, that's cancelled out by the fact that he has the demeanour of a wild boar. I'm sure many readers will be hooked to find out more about the goings-on of these two from this point.

I think I would be interested in reading 'The Hesitant Heiress' and 'The Bound Heart' to catch the earlier stages of this story.

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

4 stars

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