cover image If I Were You

If I Were You

Joan Aiken, Author Doubleday Books $16.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-23964-6

In 1815, two look-alike girls in an English boarding school agree to trade places. Louisa, priggish, bound for the life of a missionary, and Alvey, a budding writer of romances, make a compact for one year. With the conspiratorial assistance of Louisa's elder sisters, Alvey becomes a member of the tangled Winship family in a rambling Northumberland household. She wins their affections to such an extent that as the deception gradually unravels (to no one's astonishment), Alvey is importuned by allexcept the returning, disgruntled Louisato stay on. Unfortunately, the complexities, entanglements and ""sad geometry'' of the strange Winships tax the reader's patience and credulity. Still, Aiken, prolific author of period romances (Mansfield Revisited, The Five-Minute Marriage, etc.), manages to vividly evoke the ambience of the great country house of the Regency period despite the bulk of an overladen plot. (May 1)