Throwback Thursday: Retro Reads – The Girls of Canby Hall #16 : Three of a Kind

Throwback Thursday: Retro Reads

We’ve all heard of Throwback Thursday, the day you post photos from the past to Facebook or Instagram. Retro Reads is my bookish version of Throwback Thursday. I’ll be rereading and posting a recap/review of books I loved when I was younger, mostly series books. Fair warning: These are more recaps than reviews. They will be thorough and there will be spoilers.

The Girls of Canby Hall #16: Three of a KindThe Girls of Canby Hall #16 : Three of a Kind
Author: Barbara B. Hiller writing as Emily Chase
Published: 1985

Dana is in love…again, with Mac, a gorgeous boy in town. Shelley and Faith are happy for Dana, at least at first, but there’s something a little odd about Mac. Why doesn’t he ever remember Dana’s friends after he meets them? Why does he forget where he and Dana are supposed to go on a date? Is he just very absent-minded?

One night, when Faith and Shelley see Mac with Pamela, when he’s supposed to be with Dana, they start to wonder. Mac seems to be a boy with a secret, and the roommates want to find out what it is. When they do, Dana is in for the biggest surprise of her life…

As Faith is walking back to Baker from the newspaper office, thinking about applying for a summer internship at a newspaper, she runs into Pamela. Ignoring her never seems to make Pamela go away, so Faith is forced to listen as Pamela gushes over a boy she met. She loves him SO MUCH that she can’t even tell Faith his name. When Fatih relays this information to her roommates, Shelley wonders if they will act like Pamela when they “really fall in love.”


Dana points out that Shelley is love…with both Tom and Paul. Shelley turns it back on Dana, listing the boys she’s been in love with: Bret, Randy, and Chris Canby. I think Bret is the only one of those Dana would truly count, while Shelley is always all dramatic about her Romances.

Dana calls Randy to see if he wants to hang out after her babysitting job because it’s a beautiful spring day, but he cuts her off, reminding her that he has horses about to foal. He was kind of rude, but that’s not what’s bothering Dana. She just wants to be more important to him than the horses. Well, then maybe she shouldn’t have dumped him, hmm?

Dana’s babysitting for her Latin teacher’s three year old Lester, who’s a little hellion. Dana’s not exactly a great babysitter, though, letting the kid run outside and not following him, hoping he will play quietly in the front yard himself while she picks up the cards he just threw at her. SHE LET A THREE YEAR OLD PLAY OUTSIDE BY HIMSELF. It’s not until she hears the family’s dog barking that she decides it’s time to go look for him. Tuff’s leash is wound tightly around his neck and Dana can’t get it loose. That poor dog. Lucky for Dana, there’s a cute guy mowing the yard next door. She flags him down for help.

He wasn’t your run-of-the-mill boy next door.

He was gorgeous.

He was sixteen, maybe seventeen, five-ten, or eleven. He had blue eyes, a straight nose, a soft mouth, and a smile that seemed to have caused Dana’s tongue to melt. A small shock of his light brown hair fell onto his forehead.

Oh Good Lord.

Dana’s in instalove again.

As Dana and Mac introduce themselves, she suddenly remembers Lester. They find the boy playing He-Man in the backyard. The group has a snack and as Lester returns to playing, Dana and Mac flirt over Cokes and cookies. By the time he leaves to go back to his lawnmower, he has Dana’s phone number at Baker.

Dana is still talking about Mac two days later, which leads to teasing by Shelley and Faith. Shelley wants to learn about different aspects of theatre — the non-acting parts, like costumes. She’s decided to make the three of them clown costumes for next month’s costume dance. Hope they wanted to go as clowns.

Shelley and Dana go into Greenleaf to look for clown costume ideas, running into Pamela on the way. Pamela grills them on where, exactly, they’re going in town, then tries to steer them away from one store in particular, claiming that there was a gas leak on the block that day.

All the stores in Greenleaf seem to have cutesy names. There’s Dylan Drugs, Fabulous Fabrics, Pizza Pete’s, and Tutti Frutti. They spot Mac in the hardware section of a department store that must be like Sears. Or Walmart, since it has stationery and art supplies as well. Strangely, he doesn’t seem to recognize Dana, even after she reintroduces herself and reminds him of their afternoon with Lester. He attempts to cover by saying he was thinking hard about his project and the tools he needs. After he leaves, Shelley says Mac is just like Dana described, only she got his eyebrows (an incredible arch in the left and a peak at the end of his right) backwards. Remember that. It’s important.

Faith’s working on her portfolio for her internship application, which includes a shot of Shelley’s sweaty underarm when she made the game-winning spike for the Canby Hall volleyball team on one occasion. (Yes, that’s gross, and Shelley doesn’t like the idea of including it either.) I hate volleyball and I think less of Shelley for being on the team. Faith asks Alison to sit for a portrait, but Alison suggests Ms. Allardyce. Faith doesn’t want to ask her, but she does think Ms. Allardyce would be the perfect model for a portrait.

Dana is babysitting for Lester again. Faith needs a subject for her Human Interest section and thinks Lester might be a good one. Because three years olds are super interesting. Dana arranges with Lester’s parents for Faith to babysit on Sunday. She and Lester spend the afternoon outside, just in case Mac wants to wander over. So sad, Dana. He does not, but after Dana returns to the house, Mac’s mom calls to say she’s sendin him over to borrow some eggs and flour. While there, he asks Dana out for the following night. Babysitting job a success.

Faith and Shelley have gone to Boston for a Drama Club field trip (why did Faith go?), so Dana has the room to herself to get ready for her date. She takes a long bath. She lives in a dorm. We had a bathtub in my dorm in college and no one ever used it. Gross. You would have to scrub that thing down before using it. Maybe Dana did. But I doubt it.

Mac charms Alison when he arrives to pick Dana up, and on the date he charms Dana enough to make her feel comfortable discussing her parents’ divorce with him. They go to a restaurant called the Hamburger Shop. Seriously, that’s its name. I don’t remember ever reading about this place before, or after, so it must not be popular with the Canby crowd.

Mac, although he’s a townie, goes to Oakley Prep. I wonder if he knows Bret. His family is new in town, which is why Dana’s never run into him before. After dinner at the Hamburger Shop, they go bowling and then to Pizza Pete’s. Burgers and pizza in the same night? Mac a teenage boy so I can see him being able to handle it, but how much can Dana possibly eat? As soon as they walk into PP, they see Pamela, who has an interesting reaction.

Pamela’s face drained. Dana thought it turned white as a sheet. At first, Pamela seemed riveted to the floor and then she began to move stiffly towards them, almost as if she were driven. She halted when she reached the table. Mac looked at her blankly.

Slowly, Pamela took a breath and then spoke to Mac.

“Water, they say, seeks its own level. I see you have done the same.”

Mac’s confused; Pamela runs out. Dana dismisses Pamela without another thought.

Faith’s under a lot of stress to pick the right photographs for the portfolio for her internship application, which leads to arguments with her roommates and Casey. It’s strange but Dana and Shelley end up in a much bigger fight with each other than either of them with Faith, which leads to Shelley bringing up Pamela and Mac before storming out of the room.

Shelley takes her complaints to Alison, who tells her that all of them are being silly. Dana and Faith have come to the same conclusion. Dana’s on her way back to the dorm from running when Mac pulls up in a car and offers to give her a ride back. She’s in a much better mood by the time he drops her off, and over the next few days. life is great. She has a weekend date with Mac to look forward to and she’s doing well in her classes.

Things are a little off with Mac when he picks her up on Saturday. He doesn’t remember which movie they’re going to, despite it being a huge topic of conversation a few days earlier. In the middle of the movie, he steps out and is gone for over twenty minutes, coming back with the explanation that the concession stand had run out of popcorn.

Back at the dorm that night, Shelley and Faith tell Dana they’re sorry about her date. They saw him downtown and assume he stood Dana up. Dana says no, he was with her the whole night — except that time he was gone. She decides he probably went down the street to the Soda Shoppe for the popcorn. Right. She admits that it’s a little strange, but what else could it be?

The next morning, Shelley, Faith, and Casey wake Dana for an Unbirthday party. Shelley says that since Dana’s birthday is in August, they won’t be able to spend it with her and want to throw her a party now instead. Uh, no. Dana’s birthday is February 29. Pamela stops by and tells Dana that she’s so sorry it’s over between Dana and Mac. He called her last night and they’re going out next week. Dana tells Pamela that it’s not possible that he called her, since he was with Dana last night, but she feels like something’s wrong. It seems to me like the thing to do would be to either confront Mac or ask him out for Wednesday night, the exact time he’s supposed to be going out with Pamela.

That afternoon Faith babysits Lester and photographs him for her portfolio. When his father returns him, he points out that Faith hadn’t noticed what must be in the background of all of her shots: the laundry hanging on the line at Mac’s house. She’s upset about the wasted time and film and asks if she can babysit again to redo the shots. They agree to the next Saturday.

Casey’s gushing over her boyfriend Keith when she asks Dana if she thinks Mac is so wonderful that she wishes there were two of him. The comment makes Shelley think, and she asks Faith to see on her her photos again. Using a magnifying glass, she inspects them closely, then points out to the group that the laundry comes in pairs. There are two pairs of each of the pants and each of the shirts. Do you see where this is going? Mac is a twin and he and his brother dress identically! Also, they must be six instead of seventeen because what teenage twins do that?

Faith thinks it would explain a lot, like how one boy could date both Dana and Pamela at the same time. Dana admits that it’s a possibility, remembering times when Mac was great and other times when he was distant. The girls decide to get to the bottom of this, agreeing to call the two Macs Mach One and Mach Two. Mach One is the original Mac that Dana met and Mach Two is the one with the arch in his left eyebrow.

As Dana goes through each of her meetings with Mach One and Mach Two, trying to sort out which brother was which each time, she starts to get angry and vows to get even. Her first chance to test Mac comes when one of them calls to invite her to the symphony. She trips him up mentioning the music at a movie theater they went to and now she knows: there really are two Macs.

When she returns to her room angry, Shelley shares her plan for revenge. It starts Friday night when Dana and Mac are set to go to the symphony.

Dana and Mac are headed out for their date when Faith comes back to the dorm. She asks to take a picture of the two of them and starts talking about some trick photography. Before Dana and Mac leave Greenleaf, they have to make a quick stop at his house so he can retrieve the tickets he left behind. Mach One had picked Dana up, but it’s Mach Two who returns with the tickets. Why are these guys making this so complicated? And don’t they talk to each other about what happened on their dates, so there won’t be any opportunity for a suspicious girlfriend to figure out what’s going on?

A little while after Mach Two slips and starts to call Dana by the wrong name, she tells him that she knows he used to date Pamela and doesn’t hold it against him. She says Pamela is so sophisticated and stylish that it’s a compliment to be mistaken for her, then starts to go on but cuts herself off when the lights start dimming.

Later in the evening, Mach’s still thinking about what Dana was saying about Pamela and asks her about it. Dana explains that Pamela is still hung up on him and just doesn’t believe that they’re over. She warns him to stay away from the upcoming costume party if he doesn’t want to see Pamela. Dana won’t be there herself, either. She’s busy that night.

Back at the dorm, Dana evades a kiss and rushes into her dorm, explaining that it’s almost curfew. Her roommates and Casey are waiting in her room for a full report. She’s almost finished telling the girls about her night when Pamela stops by to gloat over having “won.” Dana can barely contain her laughter when she tells Pamela that Mac is the boy Pamela deserves.

Moving on, Shelley shows her roommates the clown costumes she’s been working on for them, which are exactly like pictured on the cover (nice job!) and also include an orange fright wig.

Time passes. Faith finishes her portfolio for the internship application. Casey has Keith do some sleuthing at Oakley Prep and reports back that the Machs tried to fool their math teacher but were discovered after a few days. And their real names are…Harold and Malcolm.

“No wonder they’re called Mac!”

More time passes and it’s now time to set the plan into action. Dana calls Mac and tells him that she can’t see him on Saturday night. She tells him how much effort people are putting into the costume dance and casually mentions that Pamela is going as a clown. She’s sure that she has now lured both Machs to the dance, although I’m not sure how she knows this Mach isn’t the one she went out with and has already told about the party.

The night of the dance finally arrives. Shelley helps the others with their makeup, explaining that she’s so good at it because she worked at the cosmetics counter in her dad’s store at home and that she’s always doing it for theater. Which the others would know. Also:

“I thought all you had to do was memorize lines and do what the director told you to be an actress,” Dana said.

Uh, Dana? You were in a movie. Granted, it was a small part and theater is different than film, but you’re not completely inexperienced.

By the time the roommates are made up and dressed, they’re identical. They even put lifts in their shoes to account for height differences. It’s a good thing Shelley isn’t pleasingly plump anymore. Dana heads to the dance first, claiming to be Pamela. She sees Mach Two dressed as a magician. They dance together until she sees one of her roommates and sends him off to get a drink for her. She watches as Mach One joins Shelley across the room and then Casey, dressed as a painter, “accidentally” paints a yellow stripe across his cape. This allows everyone to tell the two Machs apart. I’m not sure why the Machs aren’t concerned about it.

The girls slip away to meet in the ladies room, where they compare notes and get ready put the second part of the plan into action. Dana wipes off her makeup and changes into regular clothes, then goes to Pamela’s room. Dana says she’s like to clear the air and have a good talk with Pamela. She invites Pamela to the lunchroom, which is set up as a cafe for the dance but is currently empty. Meanwhile, Shelley and Faith meet up with the Machs and steer them to the cafe too.

The two Machs and the two clowns who are supposed to be Pamela enter the room through different doors, running into the real Pamela and Dana. Mach One has the audacity to ask Dana for an explanation! She turns it around on him, but the Machs say they were just trying to have some fun. Once Pamela catches on, she’s furious. The roommates march out, leaving the Machs alone with Pamela.

Later that night, the girls go over the whole thing again for Casey. Pamela stops by to save face.

“I think I’m supposed to be mad at you, you know.” She looked at Dana. “But no matter how hard I try, frankly, I can’t be. You obviously discovered something I should have known and you did exactly what I would have done — give then chance. You’ve actually saved me a lot of trouble and I’ve come to thank you. I’ll certainly admit that Mac seemed to be the boy of my dreams when I first met him and started going out with him, but actually, he’d started to bored me and I had begun to think there was something very odd about him. Anyway, I had made up my mind to break up with him and ws only considering exactly how to do it. You’ve saved me the trouble. Thank you.”

The next day Dana gets a phone call from Randy. His horse had a colt and he wants to show him off to Dana. Everything is back to normal.

Alison brings Faith a telegram. It’s from Washington; she’s won the internship.

I remember how much I disliked this book when I read it the first time. It’s my least favorite of the series, at least of the first set of girls. The whole Mac/Mach thing was just as stupid then as it is now.