From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW In her first book in 10 years, Kindl (Lost in the Labyrinth) creates a sharp-witted comedy of manners set in 19th-century England that mirrors the narrative voice of Jane Austen. Seventeen-year-old Althea Crawley’s mission is to secure a husband rich enough to repair the family’s crumbling castle, since her wealthier live-in stepsisters aren’t much help. (They “did feel some obligation to contribute towards their upkeep, but the sum was ever in dispute, and tardy in payment.”) Althea’s best prospect for a suitable fiancé is newcomer Lord Boring, but much to her annoyance, at social outings and parties she finds herself paired with his brash and outspoken companion, Mr. Fredericks. The banter between Althea and Mr. Fredericks will clue in readers that they are, in fact, a perfect match, something it takes Althea a while longer to recognize. Althea’s tongue-in-cheek commentary regarding the selection of a suitor and her razorlike quips are abundantly entertaining, but it is the heroine’s remarkable ingenuity and compassion for loved ones—including her widowed mother, younger brother, and an artist friend, Miss Vincy—that make her so endearing. Ages 12–up. (June)
Booklist STARRED REVIEW Seventeen-year-old Althea Crawley is facing a plight familiar to characters in Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle (1949), Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and PBS’ Downton Abbey: “Perhaps one day women might be able to choose their husbands with no thought of money and position, but not in this day and age in Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, England.” Althea is on a quest to marry rich so that she may secure the family’s only inheritance, a dilapidated castle on the edge of the North Sea. She also bears the burden of supporting her widowed mother, four-year-old brother, and two sour, wealthy stepsisters, who refuse to contribute financially to the household. Marriage prospects in tiny Lesser Hoo are slim, to say the least, until dashing and wealthy Lord Boring arrives on the scene. Matters are further complicated by a revolving cast of potential suitors, including Lord Boring’s cousin, Mr. Fredericks, who is the Mr. Darcy to Althea’s Elizabeth Bennet. As with any respectable story set in England in the nineteenth or early twentieth century, the ending is jam-packed with revelations, only some of which are surprising. In her first novel in a decade, Kindl (Goose Chase, 2001) writes with sharp, effervescent, period-specific language that is so spot-on readers may find themselves adopting a British accent. This witty take on classic Regency romances is frothy fun for YA Anglophiles. — Ann Kelley
School Library Journal STARRED REVIEW This droll tale set in 19th-century England will earn smiles of recognition from those familiar with Pride and Prejudice. Althea Crawley's only hope of saving her family and their castlelike home from their state of genteel poverty is to ensnare a wealthy husband using the two sole tools at her disposal: her youth and her beauty. The 17-year-old soon sets her sights on dashing Lord Boring, but obstacles arise, including her scheming stepsisters and Boring's seemingly boorish cousin, Mr. Fredericks. Though the bulk of the action revolves around socializing—visits, picnics, riding parties—these events are infused with enough drama and social maneuvering to keep the plot moving smoothly. Witty dialogue, particularly the barbed exchanges between Althea and Mr. Fredericks, recalls Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy's sharp banter but will also be accessible to readers who have not yet encountered Austen. Kindl uses sly humor to take aim at societal customs and standards. For example, Althea questions a rich suitor about why her appreciation of his wealth is mercenary while his enjoyment of her physical beauty is admirable. Althea is a worthy heroine with sharp-eyed views on matrimony that set her apart from more typical dewy-eyed protagonists. The dilapidated castle setting, the Crawleys' desperate circumstances, Althea's amusingly wicked stepsisters, and a touch of romance all bring this archly humorous story to vivid life. A treat for both fans of Austen and newcomers alike. — Mahnaz Dar
Kirkus Review A romp of a Regency romance told through the discerning voice of a witty teenage beauty whose family needs to her to marry for money.. . . Kindl respects the conventions of the genre while also gently mocking it. ...While the happy ending comes as no surprise, the path to it is funny as well as satisfying, with many nods to Jane Austen along the way.
Read an Excerpt
from Keeping the Castle
We were walking in the castle garden. The silvery light of early spring streaked across the grass, transforming the overgrown shrubbery into a place of magic and romance. He had begged me for a few moments of privacy, to “discuss a matter of great importance.” By this I assumed that he meant to make an offer of marriage.
“I love you, Althea—you are so beautiful,” murmured the young man into my ear.
Well, I was willing enough. I looked up at him from under my eyelashes. “I love you too,” I confessed. I averted my gaze and added privately, “You are so rich.”
Unfortunately, I apparently said this aloud, if just barely, and his hearing was sharper than one would expect, given his other attributes.
“I beg your pardon? You love me because I’m rich?”
“Not only because of that,” I hastened to assure him. He also was reasonably amiable and came of a good family. He admired me and was apparently willing to overlook my lack of fortune, all points in his favor. And, yes, he was rich. Quite enough to turn the head, and the heart, of an impressionable and impecunious young girl such as myself.
“So,” he thought this over, “if I lost my money you wouldn’t love me anymore?”
“If I became ill,” I countered, “so that my hair fell out in clumps and my skin was covered with scabs and I limped, would you still love me?”
“Egad!” He stared at me, evidently attempting to picture this. He turned a little green.
“But,” I said, “Most likely those things will not happen. You are rich and I am beautiful. We should make an excellent couple. Our children will have my looks and your money.” At least, so I hoped. Only imagine a child with his lack of neck and my lack of funds! The poor man’s head looked exactly like a melon, or perhaps one of those large orange gourds from the Americas, bursting out of his cravat. And he had such big red lips, which he licked incessantly.
We each were lost in our own separate thoughts for a moment, I, mourning the fate of these hypothetical offspring, he, as his subsequent commentary proved, considering the finer distinctions of desire and avarice.
“It’s not the same thing,” he said at last, looking sulky. “Admiration of a woman’s beauty in a man is . . .” he waved a hand, searching for the mot juste, “it’s spiritual. It shows that he has a soul.” His gaze swept up and down my form, lingering regretfully on my bosom, which was exposed enough for interest and covered enough for decorum. He licked his lips. “But,” he went on, withdrawing his gaze, “any consideration of the contents of a man’s purse by a lady he is courting is—I regret to say this to one I held in such high esteem only a few short moments ago, but I must—it is mercenary and shows a cold heart. I must withdraw my protestations of ardor. Good evening to you.”
He bowed, turned and stalked out of the garden. I sighed. When would I learn to speak with a tactful tongue? There went another one. I kept forgetting how ridiculously sensitive and illogical men were. He assumed that his fortune would buy a beauty; I assumed that my beauty would procure me a rich husband. It seemed much the same thing to me, but evidently what was permissible in a man was not in a woman.
Ah well. There was yet time; I was but seventeen.
Copyright (c) Patrice Kindl, 2012