Viking, May 15 2010, $15.99
Fourteen years old Madeleine and Rogan share much in common. Each is the youngest of six siblings; their fathers are identical twins; and symmetry between the two families that seemed almost eerily paranormal. However, the most common shared trait between these two first cousins is their love for one another. Although he has five older brothers and she has five older sisters of which they match ages and the other fourteen first cousins from the three siblings of their fathers, Madeline and Rogan are the only kissing cousins.
From their great-grandmother, a renowned actress as were her ancestors and family peers, the pair has inherited her stage talent; none of the current extended family members have a neutrino worth of talent in spite of their DNA. After finally making love for the first time, the duo discovers in the Hudson Valley attic of the family mansion a toy cardboard theater with pieces of lace. Each visit to the attic finds a different scene. The school casts the two cousins in a production of Twelfth Night that parallels the toy theater. Rogan begins to comprehend his love for Madeline parallels his Shakespearean character wise clown Feste as most likely his drama unlike the comedy Twelfth Night will end in a tragedy.
This is an intriguing romantic fantasy that focuses on young teenage love with a profound look at the taboo subject of first cousins’ incest by using drama in the attic and at the school play to explore deeply the passion and desire of the kissing kin. Rogan and Madeline are fully developed so the audience will feel their love for each other as more than puppy adulation. Yet the audience like Rogan who gained wisdom as Feste anticipates their prim and proper families (except perhaps their late great grandma) will condemn and keep them apart as what they feel for each other is unacceptable in society.