Kate and Cecilia are forced to keep in touch through letters, since Kate has gone to London for her “Season” in an alternate 1817. At first Cecy thinks that she will have an incredibly boring few months alone in the countryside, but then she meets a new acquaintance is mysteriously and overwhelmingly attractive to all men. Meanwhile Kate narrowly misses being poisoned by a magician. As the two girls investigate further, they begin to realize their separate mysteries have quite a bit in common – and that magic is far more treacherous and tricky than they would have ever believed.
I was re-reading this book, which was first published in 1987 and has two sequels (The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician). It was just as much fun the second (or possibly the third, I’ve lost count) time around. There is a lot of humor, though not of the laugh aloud sort. You can’t help rooting for poor clumsy Kate, constantly overshadowed in her mother’s eyes by her perfectly lovely sister, or for Cecy who is spunky and oddly practical in addition to her mischief. The romances are a bit predictable, running along the “I hate him, no wait, I secretly love him!” vein, but they’re still fun and satisfying all the same.
The authors claim that the book started off as a series of letters that they were writing back and forth, each author taking a different character. When they were done, they edited the story to have it make more sense (since they had not started out with a specific plot in mind) and then published it as a book. (That they were both already established authors previous to the publication made this much easier.) Because of that I’m not surprised that the girls do not have incredibly distinctive writing styles. The authors would not have been consciously trying to differentiate when they were initially writing the story. Still, while the writing style does not jump out from Kate to Cecy, the two definitely have their own personalities. A very enjoyable book, whether read for the first time or the second.