Joan Aiken's last 19th century romance tells the story of two identical but unrelated schoolfriends finishing the education at the Abbey school, Reading.
Alvey, one of the two girls, agrees to impersonate the other in order to find herself a refuge where she can complete the novel she has always wanted to write. The Deception proves all too easy, as the family she meets are in desperate need of her help. With the conspiratorial assistance of Louisa's elder sisters, Alvey becomes a member of the troubled Winship family in a rambling Northumberland household.
After many complexities and entanglements, she wins their affections to such an extent that as the deception gradually unravels, Alvey is begged by the family to stay on, to the shock of the returning Louisa.