Impersonation tales never end well, but they’re almost impossible to resist. What will trip up the impersonator? What happened to the person whose identity has been assumed? These questions and more are answered in this debut novel. Impersonation offers a high risk, but the impersonator is usually hard up and needs the payoff. Such is the case for Leah Randall, a struggling vaudeville actress in 1924. Oliver Beckett attends a performance and is struck by her resemblance to his missing niece, who conveniently was an heiress. When her employment prospects dim, Leah takes up Oliver on his offer and sets out to convince Jessie’s family in Oregon that she is their long-lost relation and can claim Jessie’s fortune on her 21st birthday.
Leah’s years in vaudeville allow her to easily improvise her way through attempts to trip her up, and she feels a bond with the missing Jessie and is determined to learn her fate. Complicating that aim is whoever is responsible for Jessie’s disappearance and Leah’s growing attraction to Jessie’s half-brother. Jessie’s family is a mixed bag of people Leah genuinely wishes she was related to and those she can’t stand. Miley effectively creates an aura of danger around Leah. The family home is in a remote area outside Portland; a series of murders have been committed over the years; and certain members of Jessie’s family are none too happy she’s returned, dashing their hopes for her inheritance.
Miley’s first novel held my attention from start to finish. Leah is a tough yet sympathetic character, and the reader roots for her success. Other characters are less likeable, but their hostility only serves to emphasize Leah’s strength in navigating her impersonation. In the end, this is that rare impersonation tale that does end well.