Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

DUELING REVIEW: Betrayal by Sandra Schwab

Dear Ms. Schwab:

The next time I see someone bewail, “they don’t write historical romance like they used to,” I’m going to recommend this. The intense, angsty, sometimes uncomfortable story is very reminiscent of older books such as those by Brenda Joyce or Kat Martin, though terser and less epic. Which was perfect for me, because I could get my old skool fix without having to be up all night. I read this in what felt like about five minutes, totally engrossed.

betrayalTwo seventeen year old boys meet by chance in Tuscany and are startled by their uncanny resemblance to each other. They’re even more startled when they discover they have the same last names. Yes, this is a historical romance version of “the Parent Trap”! Or more accurately, it was inspired by Das Doppelte Lottchen, the German book that inspired “The Parent Trap.” The book isn’t really about separated twins Gareth and Finnian though — they’re mainly the catalyst to reuinite their parents, two lovers who were torn apart, each feeling betrayed by the other.

The time is not specified, though I would guess the Victorian era. In Germany, Finnian’s mother Georgina is working as a companion, and after years of celibacy is starting to think about letting love and sex into her life again.  But even her fantasies about her employer’s secretary hint that she isn’t completely free of the past:

She would look down on his dark head, run her hands —

Georgina frowned.

Fair hair. She would run her hands through his fair hair.

Meanwhile in England, Georgina’s ex-husband Lord Ashburnham is still nursing his bitterness against the wife he believes was unfaithful, and leading as cold and proper a life as possible. Later, after Georgina reappears, he’ll think, “He could feel himself unravelling and he hated it. An Ashburnham did not unravel. An Ashburnham was always in control of himself.” What he doesn’t realize that he’s been emotionally unraveled for the past 17 years, caught up in a resentment that’s effectively kept him from getting close to anyone, including his own son Gareth.

This may be the stickiest part of the book — that its hero has rejected his son because of uncertain parentage for the past 17 years. It helps that he’s obviously repressing some genuine affection: “it did not befit the Earl of Ashburnham to race to the front door the minute his heir returned from his travel through Italy.” And Gareth’s upbringing has probably not been substantially different from that of his peers. Still, it’s a pretty ugly behavior for a romance hero. Gareth finds love and comfort when he takes Finnian’s place in Germany, but Finnian’s experience in England is far different.

The appeal of this sort of book is in the passion and intensity, and Betrayal is all about that. Rage, bitterness, vengefulness — tempered by unwilling love and concern.

 The expression on her face that last time in his study. Milky-white skin, shock that he had seen through her masquerade, through all her scheming and lies. Large as saucer her eyes had been.

Her eyes…

Ash’s stomach dropped. For a moment he had to lean his forehead against the smooth wood of the door-jamb.

He couldn’t remember the colour of her eyes.

Some unknown, unwanted feeling constricted his throat, almost as if the vanishing of this particular memory was a keen loss. Fool. Fool. What did it matter what the colour of her eyes had been?

And of course Ash’s hatred towards his ex-wife can’t overcome his distress at seeing her dressed in dark, drab clothes instead of the bright colors she once loved, and he dashes to rescue her when she’s in trouble.

Originally a serialized audiobook, Betrayal is the first self-published book by Sandra Schwab, who last published a romance in 2008. (She’s digitizing her previous books, so they should be available again soon.) It has a few editing errors, especially towards the end, and it’s a bit uneven. The old-style story is told in a suitably old-style way, but the first half feels more leisurely, with room for atmosphere and some enjoyably quirky touches, while the England sections seem to rush by, focused almost entirely on the emotions of the characters, their warring bitter and sensual memories, and some over the top villainy. But though it’s not the most substantial book, I happily devoured it. B-.




Dear Ms. Schwab,

Erich Kastner’s Das doppelte Lottchen was one of my favorite books as a child. I read it in Israel, in translation to Hebrew, and found it utterly charming. In adulthood, I even tracked down the English translation, Lisa and Lottie, which is sadly disappointing. I’m not able to read Das doppelete Lottchen in the original German, but compared to the Hebrew, Lisa and Lottie is a travesty.

BetrayalEnglish speakers will likely be most familiar with the bare bones of Kastner’s story of twins who switch places to uncover what went wrong in their parents’ marriage from its screen adaptations, The Parent Trap and sequels. Now comes your historical romance, Betrayal, which pays homage to Kastner’s beloved children’s book.

Betrayal first appeared in 2006 as a free podcast serial. When I saw that it has been reissued as an ebook and realized it was inspired by Das doppelte Lottchen, I decided to purchase it, due to my childhood love for the Kastner and also because I enjoyed your debut, The Lily Brand.

Finnian Crawley and Gareth Crawley, Viscount St. Asaph, meet in Tuscany one summer while on tour. The two seventeen year olds don’t recall meeting before, and yet they look so alike they can only be identical twins. After comparing notes, Finnian and Gareth decide to switch places. Finnian will go to Sussex, where Gareth resides with his father, the Earl of Ashburnham, while Gareth will go to Frankfurt, where Finnian lives with his mother, who serves as companion to a tradeswoman who deals in fabrics.

And so the twins switch places. In England, “Ash,” the Earl of Ashburnham, finds his heir much changed. Whereas Gareth was always rebellious and difficult to manage, he is now quieter and more thoughtful. In Germany, Georgina Crawley discovers that her son’s shoulders have broadened, and that he is becoming a man – one who puts her in mind of another man she once loved and lost.

Some of the changes are disconcerting to Ash and Georgina. “Finnian” no longer knows how to sort fabrics in the Frankfurt warehouse his mother’s employer owns, as he has done in the past. “St. Asaph” has learned to play the piano beautifully, and shows an affinity for a haunting melody that reminds Ash of the woman he only wants to forget.

Though Georgina is being courted by a gentleman she finds attractive, one whose suit she weighs accepting, and Ash’s mother attempts to introduce him to marriageable women, neither Ash nor Georgina can put the other out of his or her thoughts.

Ash, in particular, struggles with these feelings, since he believes Georgina betrayed him. When he blurts as much to his heir, a boy he has never fully treated as his son, “St. Asaph” refuses to believe him and takes off on a horse ride that causes him injury.

In Frankfurt, Gareth, posing as Finnian, begins to worry that something has happened to his brother. Ultimately, things come to a head when Georgina sees her son’s birthmark and realizes he is not the same son she stole when she left England, but her other son, Ash’s heir, whom she was forced to leave behind.

Georgina must journey to England with Gareth to confront Ash after seventeen years of separation. But what will her former husband’s reaction be? And will an old enemy, the person who poisoned her marriage, allow her to get close to Ash once again?

As I say, I loved Das doppelte Lottchen so perhaps it will come as no surprise that I enjoyed the big and small nods to Kastner’s classic children’s novel. The description of the giant statue of Neptune watching as the two boys first met reminded me of a bit in Kastner’s novel, in which the moon watches through the girls’ bedroom window at summer camp to see them make up. This, and the two siblings moving to different countries, the parents’ awareness of “changes” in their children, one child’s struggles to master “old” skills and the revelations of “new” ones in both, all delighted me.

The whimsical prose and side characters reminded me a little bit of Eva Ibbotson’s romances, of which I’m very fond. And as for the main characters, both were likable and appealing, which surprised me in Ash’s case since the plot requires him to distrust Georgina almost until the very end. But despite this, and despite the fact that Ash doesn’t allow himself to view his heir as his son, I could see he was a good man who loved Georgina intensely and suffered greatly from her loss.

It was a nice irony that although Ash had wealth and position, Georgina, who had been cast out due to his anger at her supposed betrayal, fared better than he did. Though she missed him and the child she had left behind, she was less tortured, and ready to consider moving on. I especially liked that she was attracted to her employer’s secretary and thinking of marrying him.

There were, however, some significant problems and most of these had to do with the development of the romantic relationship. First, it takes over 40% of the novel for Ash and Georgina to meet. Until then, they are not shown interacting in the present day, only recalling past interactions.

Second, the majority of these flashbacks focus on Ash and Georgina’s satisfying sex life as a young married couple. While there is a nice role reversal in that Georgina is shown to have been the sexual aggressor, the flashbacks felt intrusive to me. For the most part, they amounted to mental lusting.

At a length of 170 pages, Betrayal is a short novel, and very little attention is given to the development of Ash and Georgina’s relationship. We don’t see much of their original courtship, and while it’s nice to know they had good chemistry in bed, I would have preferred to see some of their first interactions outside the bedroom in the flashbacks.

Once Georgina and Ash meet again, we see that their feelings for each other remain as powerful as ever. But seventeen years is a long time, and we never see them become reacquainted once they are in each other’s spheres again. Both think about how attractive the man and woman they have become are, relative to the boy and girl they used to be, but neither one takes the time or trouble to truly learn who the other has grown into and what changes time has wrought.

Instead the story is dependent on the resurrection of old feelings and on the plot conflict in the form of the obvious villain machinations and attempts to come between the two. This part of the story feels more predictable than the rest.

The conflict between Ash and Gareth is one we never see resolved between the two. While I have no doubt that Ash would try to make amends for his unfair treatment of Gareth, I would have liked to at least see him begin this process. But like most of the relationships in this novel, this was glossed over.

In thinking about Betrayal, I can see that it might have worked better for me as a free podcast. The chapters keep the plot moving forward, the characters are likable, the prose would have been nice to listen to. But as a novel it falls short because the characters and their relationships don’t get sufficient attention. C.




AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle


Willaful fell in love with romance novels at an early age, but ruthlessly suppressed the passion for years, while grabbing onto any crumbs of romance to be found in other genres. She finally gave in and started reading romance again in 2006, and has been trying to catch up with the entire genre ever since. Look for her on twitter or at her blog at


  1. Willaful
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 12:06:44

    I’m not sure we’re properly dueling, because I actually agree with Janine’s criticisms. :-) They just didn’t affect my enjoyment as significantly. Also, how cool is it that she was familiar with the source material and could get all the allusions?

  2. Janine
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 12:32:07

    @Willaful: I wonder if I was harder on this book because I loved Das doppelte Lottchen so much as a child? It may have made me more conscious of where the homage ended and Schwab’s independent storytelling began.

    As an aside, I still own a copy of Ora Hakfula (The Doubled Ora/Lottchen). I wish that a good English translation of Kastner’s novel existed since I think of it as a childhood classic and I’d love for my friends to be able to enjoy it. So many authors from continental Europe whom I read as a child aren’t quite as well known and read in the US — Selma Lagerlof, Antoine de Saint Exupery, Astrid Lindgren, Jules Verne, to name a few. I suppose it’s because English speakers have so many more reading options available to them even excluding translations.

  3. Kathy
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 12:58:02

    Thanks Willaful and Janine for the review. “Betrayal” sounds like my cuppa. “castle of the Wolf” was a terrific book – Fenris, such an unusual hero (lost a leg in Napoleonic wars; gargoyles; and a gothic-y feel to the book.

    Glad that Ms. Schwab has something new and that her older books will be digitally issued soon.

  4. Meri
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 13:11:42

    I’m sold. I loved Ora Hakfula as a kid (I think every girl in Israel did…) and even if this retelling doesn’t work as well as one might hope, I must read it :) But I think I’ll wait until it’s available outside of Amazon, as I suspect the price I’m seeing includes Whispernet fees yet again.

    Astrid Lindgren was a wonderful writer. I wonder if someone could do a romance version of The Brothers Lionheart… probably not.

  5. Janine
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 13:21:53


    I’m sold. I loved Ora Hakfula as a kid (I think every girl in Israel did…)

    It sure was a popular book.

    and even if this retelling doesn’t work as well as one might hope, I must read it :)

    FWIW, I’m not sorry I read it, I just wish Betrayal had been expanded because the premise is so rich. I would have loved more focus on the twins’ developing relationships with the parents they were just getting to know, and with each other. Maybe even a secondary romance for one of them. This really needed to be a full-length novel.

  6. Willaful
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 13:46:20

    Perhaps a sequel is in order? There were some romantic aspects of the twins’ adventures that were just hinted at…

    Meri, word is the books will be available elsewhere, though I don’t have an ETA.

    Interesting that the book is so well known in Israel. (A German book, too… is that odd?) My mom owns a copy of the English translation but I never got around to reading it. Perhaps I’ll borrow it next time I visit. I studied German but don’t remember enough to read it. :-(

  7. Janine
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 13:54:06

    @Willaful: That sequel thought has potential.

    I was interested to read on Wikipedia that Kastner was a pacifist opposed to the Nazis and consequently he was interrogated by the Gestapo and his books were burned by the Nazis too. Perhaps that accounts for his works having been translated into Hebrew in the first place? I really don’t know, but there’s mention of his popularity in Israel in Wiki too.

    If your mom’s English translation is the same one I read, it may disappoint you. Don’t judge the original by it if it does.

  8. Miranda Neville
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 13:58:57

    I bought this a few days ago (who knows when I’ll have a time to read it?) because I also loved the Kastner book as a child. I read it in English as Lottie & Lisa. I wonder if it was a different (U.K.) translation than Janine had. I can’t compare it to the German – or Hebrew! – but it was a favorite. Much better than any movie manifestation of The Parent Trap.

    Interesting comparison to Eva Ibbotson. I see what you mean. I don’t have anything to say about Betrayal but look forward to reading it.

  9. Sandra
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:01:40

    Adding to my wish list. I adore the original “Parent Trap”, but never knew it was based on a book. I had a fangirl crush on Haley Mills when I was a kid. And as an adult, did some major lusting after Brian Keith.

  10. Janine
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:10:46

    @Miranda Neville: It may also be that I had a different response to the translator’s voice because it was the second translation I read? I’m glad you enjoyed it better — maybe others will as well.

    The similarity I saw between the Schwab and Ibbotson’s writing is more subtle and may also have something to do with the Frankfurt setting of the early part of the story and the influence of a children’s book on it. I don’t know if anyone else will find them similar. I hope you enjoy Betrayal.

  11. Sunita
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:11:09

    @Miranda Neville: Thank you! I thought I had read the book as a child, but I couldn’t remember until you mentioned Lottie and Lisa. Yes indeed. I loved the original Parent Trap, and I was pleasantly surprised by the remake.

    I feel as if I have to pick up this book, just on principle, although my TBR is as ridiculous as ever.

    ETA: I would have read the UK version because I read it before I got to the States.

  12. DUELING REVIEW: Betrayal by Sandra Schwab | Wr...
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:21:34

    […] Dear Ms. Schwab: The next time I see someone bewail, “they don’t write historical romance like they used to,” I’m going to recommend this.  […]

  13. Dabney
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:23:30

    @Miranda Neville: I too loved Lottie and Lisa. I guess compared to the original Parent Trap, it seemed lovely.

  14. Miranda Neville
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:30:02

    @Janine: The middle European setting and fact that the father was a musician made me think of Ibbotson when you mentioned it. A different version of a much-loved book often disappoints. Probably why I didn’t love either movie, though they aren’t bad, even poor Lindsay Lohan – it was before she went off the rails.

    @Sunita: Here’s the Puffin Books edition, complete with Hayley Mills. I’m getting all nostalgic looking at it.

  15. Janine
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:31:01

    Interesting. There seems to be an English translation titled Lottie and Lisa, and another called Lisa and Lottie. I read the second of these, so if they genuinely are different translations, I recommend starting with the first.

  16. Dabney
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:35:42

    @Janine: That’s the one I have. It’s a Puffin book from 1962 translated by Cyrus Brooks.

  17. Ducky
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:46:38

    @Janine: Erich Kaestner! Ah, yes, I remember his books fondly. Did you ever read “Der kleine Grenzverkehr”? It’s also very charming.

    I have such an appreciation for certain European authors who wrote books both children and adults can enjoy. Like Astrid Lindgren and Ottfried Preussler (who just recently passed). I want to re-read “Krabat”. And I still have a very ancient copy of “Der Rauber Hotzenplotz” which is falling apart. I also regard the illustrators of that era highly. Like the gifted Mirko Hanak who passed way too young.

  18. Ducky
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:50:32


    Yes, Kaestner was a great humanist and certainly suffered for his beliefs.

  19. Janine
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:57:58

    @Ducky: Looking at the list of his books on Wikipedia, I recall reading Emil und die Detektive (Emil and the Detectives) and Pünktchen und Anton (Anna Louise and Anton) as well as one or two others whose German titles I can’t identify, all in Hebrew translations. The Flying Classroom is one. I loved Das doppelte Lottchen best, though Emil and the Detectives was quite popular in Israel as well.

  20. Willaful
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 14:58:34

    @Ducky: It’s kind of awesome that his work is appreciated in Israel. My older relatives had a very visceral response to anything remotely German — it upset them that I was studying the language.

  21. Janine
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 15:03:38

    @Dabney: Alas I don’t have Lisa and Lottie anymore, so I can’t identify the translator.

  22. Ducky
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 15:09:29


    “Der kleine Grenzverkehr” is not a children’s book – it’s the story of this eccentric German bachelor who commutes daily during the Salzburg Festspiele from Germany to Austria and who falls for a charming Austrian woman. It’s a cute little romance.

  23. Ducky
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 15:10:57


    Yes, I didn’t know that some German authors are popular in Israel.

  24. Junne
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 15:27:43

    I think I’d have a hard time enjoying reading a book where both hero and heroine leave one of their children behind, and don’t even tell the one they took they have a brother. To me, that’s even worse than the secret baby plot (which is already hard to swallow). How is that handled in the book? Is there some grovel? ( parents towards children)

  25. Sunita
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 15:31:52

    @Miranda Neville: Thanks! I wish I could remember the cover, but in India they often were re-covered because of the weather, etc. and not much A/C back then. That was probably it, though.

    ETA: Oddly, I can still remember what the cover of my copy of Heidi looked like, though.

  26. Janine
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 15:42:42

    @Miranda Neville: Oh, Ash wasn’t a musician, it was actually Georgina and one of the twins (Finnian) who had musical abilities. I think one of the things that most made me think of Ibbotson (in addition to the setting) was Georgina’s matchmaking employer, a gypsy who married into the German middle class and became a successful businesswoman. That and something about the descriptions — there’s a mention of Tuscany’s churches being painted like zebras in the first scene, for example.

    @Junne: This was explained to my satisfaction. MILD SPOILER Ash didn’t believe the boys were his, and Georgina knew that if Ash raised them, they would not be sufficiently loved. But since he had divorced her, she was not entitled to custody. And if she kidnapped the heir and disappeared with him, she would be pursued to the ends of the earth, so she could only take Finnian, the second son, if she hoped to raise him away from Ash, as well as away from the person who poisoned her marriage to Ash in order to get rid of her. Obviously she could not tell Finnian about this if she wanted to protect him. END OF MILD SPOILER

    Ash, meanwhile, didn’t allow mentions of Georgina, so Gareth didn’t know about her or Finnian either. I did find this troubling, and I also found it troubling that Ash didn’t treat Gareth as a son, though I think under all the mixed feelings he did love Gareth. As I said in my review, I think the book would have been stronger had we seen Ash begin to make amends for this.

    ETA: It is made clear in the book that Ash has huge regrets for this, but I still needed a little more.

  27. Susan
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 19:15:09

    So glad you both reviewed this book as I had downloaded it as soon as I saw it. I’ve really enjoyed all of Sandra Schwab’s other books. They were books that continued to percolate in my brain after the initial readings, and I’ll often pick them up for quick re-reads.

    I’m not familiar with Kastner (feel so deprived!) so I wouldn’t have known anything about the source of the story. Very cool!

  28. Meri
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 22:52:46

    There are of course still people in Israel who won’t have anything to do with Germany and all things German, and I understand this and empathize – but I don’t think it’s a very common feeling anymore. At the other end are the many Israelis who over the years have obtained German citizenship, something those with German ancestors can do fairly easily.

    The translation Janine and I must have read dates back to the 1950s, as far as I can tell (there has since been a newer one), and I too can remember reading Emil and the Detectives, as well as The 35th of May. The only other German book I recall reading as a kid is The Neverending Story, though there may have been more. While there were and are some wonderful and popular Israeli authors of children’s books, we did read a fair number of translated ones, too.

  29. Junne
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 06:09:56

    Thanks for the explanation, I can understand the heroine’s actions better now, the hero…not so much. But actually I’m more enclined to forgive cheating in a romance than harm done to children because of stupid hang-ups, so I guess I’ll pass.
    I’m weird that way.

  30. Willaful
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 10:33:54

    @Junne: I hear you, Junne — I love old skool books and can read about dreadful stuff without turning a hair, but it’s much harder when kids are involved.

  31. Estara
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 13:22:01

    Erich Kästner had an amazing oeuvre all round, whether his poems and plays aimed at adults, his cabaret songs (especially right after the war), his screenplays (some German directors had him work on the lighter movies even though the Nazis hated him, from his exile in Switzerland), or his books aimed at children (for which he is the most famous). I think he also was the only author who actually watched one of the Nazi book burnings in Munich where his books were burned – he wrote about it in his diary.

    I was wondering if any of you readers of German children’s literature had also read Die wunderbaren Fahrten und Abenteuer der kleinen Dott? – which I basically discovered in my church library in a three volume edition from the 60s. It’s one of the few clear fantastical children books from the 30s that I know of in German.

    I’m asking because translator Malve von Hassell did a really congenial translation of the one-volume edition, complete with new illustrations (which are also in the ebook edition), this year. I really liked it (link to my Goodreads review with excerpt): .

  32. Janine
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 20:45:18

    @Ducky: It sounds wonderful, but I haven’t read it.

    @Ducky: Gunter Grass was also popular there during my growing up years — among adults. I’m sure there are others too.

    @Susan I hope you enjoy it!

    @Meri: The 35th of May! How you bring back memories! I had forgotten that one and I think I even saw a theater production of it as a child in Israel.

    @Junne: Yeah, I agree with you. I have a tough time with harm or neglect of kids as well (or with endangering them, although that didn’t happen in this book), and the hero’s actions were less justifiable than the heroine’s. She took one child away and he had no idea where, so I don’t blame him for the twins’ separation, but he was not a great father to Gareth (or to Finnian, after the boys switched).

    @Estara: I read about his watching the book burning on Wikipedia. He sounds like a brave person.

  33. Cate
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 15:28:10

    Adding this to my TBR list, if it’s reminiscent of Eva Ibbotson, I’ll be in clover.

  34. Janine
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 15:30:16

    @Cate: I hope you enjoy it. The Ibbotson similarity is subtle, but I thought it was there. I would love to hear what you think of Betrayal.

%d bloggers like this: