Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Teri Wilson - The Accidental Beauty Queen

Charlotte Gorman loves her job as an elementary school librarian, and is content to experience life through the pages of her books. Which couldn’t be more opposite from her identical twin sister. Ginny, an Instagram-famous beauty pageant contestant, has been chasing a crown since she was old enough to enunciate the words world peace, and she’s not giving up until she gets the title of Miss American Treasure. And Ginny’s refusing to do it alone this time.
She drags Charlotte to the pageant as a good luck charm, but the winning plan quickly goes awry when Ginny has a terrible, face-altering allergic reaction the night before the pageant, and Charlotte suddenly finds herself in a switcheroo the twins haven’t successfully pulled off in decades.
Woefully unprepared for the glittery world of hair extensions, false eyelashes, and push-up bras, Charlotte is mortified at every unstable step in her sky-high stilettos. But as she discovers there’s more to her fellow contestants than just wanting a sparkly crown, Charlotte realizes she has a whole new motivation for winning.

Comment: This one had been in the pile only since last year, so it didn't have to wait too long but I confess I picked it up because I had finished the books I had scheduled for April and wanted a final one to end the month which wasn't too big and this one, in my ebook edition, didn't quite reach 200 pages.

This is the story of twin sisters Ginny and Charlotte who, about to turn 30, are in different places in their lives when it comes to their jobs. Ginny has always been the "beautiful one" and she has been honoring their late mother by being in the beauty competition world, participating in several "miss" contests and being a beauty influencer on social networks and such. Charlotte has taken a more traditional route and her love for books took her to work as a school librarian. Their relationship hasn't been perfect but being twins, they have made it work and when this story begins, Charlotte has just arrived at the hotel where both will be staying, so they can spend some time together in the midst of one of Ginny's contests and Charlotte's vacation. Te problem is that Ginny has an allergic reaction and she begs her twin to take her place just until her face gets to normal and reluctant Charlotte accepts thinking this might bring them closer...but how could she guess what would happen....

This was a cute story. It felt more focused on the twins' experience and mostly Charlotte's thoughts (she is the narrator) on what was happening than in the plot itself but it was still a fun story to follow. I found the writing to be fluid, easy and simple enough to put the events at evidence.

I think it won't be any surprise here that the fact the sisters have such different personalities and ways of living is 1) the reason for the biggest emotional conflict, which started around the time their mother died and how they coped individually with it until their adult lives and 2) how that colors their opinions of one another, mostly Charlotte's of Ginny and how much of an impact being in her shoes will have on her.

Between these issues and Charlotte being the narrator, this book has the classic trope of mix of identities with some inner growing for Charlotte because she realizes what she has thought about her sister's work and lifestyle isn't too bad and her opinion on beauty contests certainly changes. I think that, despite this side of the story being rather predictable - and Charlotte being bookish was quite a contrast - there was still a certain emotional weight to this and even of the sisters with their parents, well their father and stepmother. I think, in general, the relationships between the characters was OK, considering the twin's choices but at the same time, there were moments where things felt a little rushed or not developed as much as they could.

In fact, I'd say this was the element I found less appealing, how the way Charlotte and Ginny interacted and how they dealt with their inner struggles and mourning for their mother - even though she had died when they were children - shaped their relationship, their connection. I think the author probably wanted to highlight how different they were without making them fully apart from one another or estranged but I feel their sibling connection wasn't really worked on, and by the end, when a strong scene played out, it felt more like something dramatic had to happen, instead of being a natural progression of things which could/should have been addressed during the book. 

Another reference to Charlotte's love life, which is also a key situation in the story: I don't mind she and her love interest seemed to have a more emotional connection than a physical one and that the only intimacy scene happened off screen, so to speak but despite the (not that many, actually) scenes they shared, I think more details on their time together should have been included, even if nothing too explicit. I believe they had a connection, Charlotte's descriptions allow us to have that impression, but I don't know if I was fully convinced their was an everlasting love...

All in all, this was cute, quick, provided the intended moral lesson or message, there were a couple of very good scenes, others more or less interesting... as a whole, I liked reading this but I also think some elements could have been done much better. 
Grade: 7/10

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