In the spirit of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors and David Swift’s The Parent Trap, Anne Leigh Parrish’s rollicking fourth novel, Maggie’s Ruse, grapples with the consequences of mistaking one identical twin for the other. Maggie Dugan, an artist who paints door-frames and empty bottles, impersonates her sister, Marta, to steal a kiss from one of the aspiring actress’s collaborators. The resulting romantic chaos offers a clever and delightful send-up of Millennial mating habits and contemporary social mores. A fun, sparking book that embraces the wonders of sisterhood in of all its challenges and complexities.” – Jacob Appel, author of Millard Salter’s Last Day
What mischief is possible when two women not only look alike but are roommates and artists living in New York City? Identical twin Maggie Dugan’s experimental tryst with her sister Marta’s boyfriend leads to a life-changing test for both as they struggle for recognition – literally and figuratively. Maggie’s Ruse by Anne Leigh Parrish is a highly readable romp of a novel exploring identity, sisterly bonds, and the decisions that both divide and unite us. – Pam McGaffin, author of The Leaving Year
Lookalike twin sisters Maggie and Marta navigate careers and lovers, confusing colleagues and relatives in the process. Manhattan, L.A., and upstate New York provide atmospheric backdrops for two young women struggling to find themselves, one as an actor, the other as artist. Anne Leigh Parrish is a sharp observer of personalities and relationships. Skillfully-written and absorbing, Maggie’s Ruse well displays her ample literary talents. – Karl Wenclas, Editor, New Pop Lit
The floor creaked whenever Maggie shifted her weight. The Jimmy Choo stiletto pumps were killing her. Their cherry red leather called her name in the SoHo shoe boutique only an hour before, just after Kyle’s text message urged her to get her lovely butt out the door and down to the gallery for the opening of Luther Galt’s exhibition. That Kyle was gay didn’t lessen her appreciation for his compliment. Kyle knew a good butt when he saw one. At the moment he was across the room, checking out what was on offer.
Luther Galt, on the other hand, hadn’t checked her out once. Her usual gambit, “You’ve been such an inspiration for my own work,” was received with a blank stare. Then he cleared his throat. He was shorter than Maggie by about two inches, another reason she despaired of the shoe choice. Only the other day her mother had complained over the phone that heels had just gotten too high. Maggie didn’t like talking to her mother and did so only to keep the money flowing
The corner of Galt’s right eye was crusted. His face was acne scarred and littered with broken blood vessels. His nose dripped. Not a prime specimen by any means, and Maggie abandoned her plans to seduce him. She was a poor seducer, truth be told, though she was pretty, thin, and shapely, all things men usually liked, though not as much as they liked it in her twin sister, Marta. Marta was sassy because she was an actress. Or she was an actress because she was sassy. Either way, her muse was louder than Maggie’s, and had pushed her further along the glittery road to success, though she’d appeared in only two plays the whole time they’d been in New York—almost three years. Yet she spoke of herself as a seasoned veteran of the stage in a way that sometimes made Maggie admire her confidence, and other times made her want to scream.
Maggie looped her free arm through Galt’s—in her other hand was a glass of champagne—and begged him to show her his favorite piece.
The Dawn of Time, a muddy mess of brown and green, was at the far end of the gallery, and by the time Galt had escorted her there, the little toe of her right foot was screaming. She reclaimed her arm, removed her shoes, and put them in her huge purple leather purse, after asking Galt to hold her glass for her. He must have assumed she was offering it to him, because he drank it down in one go. The alcohol caused him to flush immediately. He looked at her keenly.
“You strike me as a perceptive young woman. Tell me what you’re devoted to. Artistically, I mean,” he said.
Maggie pulled out the little album she always had with her. She photographed every finished piece, labeled the photos, and put them in chronological order. As she looked over Galt’s shoulder while he flipped slowly through, she realized a sorting by color and subject might have made more sense. Maggie was obsessed with two things—doorframes and empty bottles—which appeared over and over in greater or lesser degrees of abstraction, imbued most often with blues and grays, but sometimes with warmer tones, and even a touch of hot pink now and then. She saw now that the current arrangement was jumbled and didn’t lead the viewer through any progressive understanding. Galt paused over one, a leaning doorframe with exposed hinges, and asked her if the bullseyes she’d included meant she had an interest in Victorian architecture.
“Not really,” she said.
“Pity. In many ways, it represented the pinnacle of design.”
He gave her back the album, then the empty glass, and turned away as his name was called by a tall, white-haired man in a tuxedo with a red scarf thrown rakishly over his shoulder.
Maggie put the glass on the floor and padded her way across the room to find Kyle. He was sitting on a wide windowsill, looking at his phone, and sulking. As she approached, he said, “Darling, you’ve gone native.”
“They don’t fit.”
“Take them back.”
Maggie joined him on the sill. She told him about showing Galt her album, and his lukewarm response.
“You’ve got to get him into your studio,” Kyle said.
“I left, remember?”
She’d been working in a large co-op studio in Chelsea with two other artists. Her assigned part of it was next to a glorious bank of tall, filthy windows. It was a great arrangement. She dropped by a couple of days a week, painted for an hour or two, then went on her way in a state of energized fulfillment. Sometimes Kyle came with one of his flamboyant friends to look at her most recent work and act impressed. Once she brought a gallery owner she’d bought an expensive dinner for. The owner—a tiny women in her sixties with a heavy silver necklace, peered over her bifocals at two canvases depicting empty bottles, all of which were tipped over, and asked if she had a particular fondness for bowling. Maggie took her question in stride, which was made a little easier by the woman really loving her rendition of one doorway within another.
“Have you named it?” the woman—Giselle—asked.
“Call it Inner Child. I might find a place for it.”
Giselle’s gallery on Twenty-Third Street had just been renovated into a modern split-level, light-filled space with cable railings, and a painted concrete floor. The floor color, a pale green, would go perfectly with the aqua hues in Maggie’s painting. The crowd that gathered to admire it would be stylishly dressed, but it was the adoring gaze of one man, standing apart, that she craved most. He’d be tall and unkempt, with a haunted look in his green eyes. His unshaven cheeks gave him a rough air that his passion for art belied. First, he would be her patron, then her lover.
In the end, Giselle had to pass. She’d just arranged a solo exhibit for a French printmaker. Later, if she put together a show that complemented Maggie’s style, she’d be in touch. So much for the spellbound crowd and finding the love of her life.