Keeping the Castle, by Patrice Kindl
Althea is terribly poor. That’s not good, because expenses are high; she lives in a rundown castle she’s trying to patch together for her four-year-old brother’s inheritance. If she can’t keep it from tumbling down by the time he is of age, their only chance of financial rescue is ruined.
Althea is also terribly practical. This is a very good thing, because in order to keep up the appearances for neighbors… well, it’s watercress sandwiches and broiled minnows from the moat for tea time.
Still, the roof is leaking, and watercress won’t plug it. The best paintings have all been sold (and nobody is likely to buy minnows). And although the sugarbowl is properly set out, there’s nothing in it.
Things aren’t looking good.
But – Althea is terribly pretty. And there’s this interesting young gentleman that just moved in next door. He’s rich. He’s good looking. He has a friend with terrible manners, but that’s okay – because he’s clever enough to appreciate Althea, and she’s practical enough to start scheming. Add in Althea’s two stepsisters who are not terribly poor or practical (they are pretty, but mostly they’re just all-around terrible). Suddenly, there’s a contest being fought with dainty smiles and ladylike cunning, and may the best man win – err, be won.
Reminiscent of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle (though much cleaner), this book is an unapologetically outrageous ramble through an old English countryside. Althea is clever, and it’s fascinating to watch her come up with solutions for piecing together the crumbling castle, or concoct schemes for squeezing money out of her stingy stepsisters. The “twist” ending was a bit obvious if you were looking, but the book is more about the romp along the way.
I’m not a fan of romance novels, but to be looking for the richest sap in town was decidedly not romantic. None of the guys were drawn as the magnificent or devastatingly handsome Prince Charming (actually, most of them were pretty useless), and none of the girls were delicate beauties prone to fainting dead away – or at least when they did, it was strategically calculated for maximum effect.
This is the kind of book that has to recommend itself. If you’re in the mood for light and silly, this is it – and if it’s not your style, you won’t be able to even read the back cover without rolling your eyes.
Keeping the Castle is not deep, literary, or thought-provoking – but it is sorta fun.
(Note: I asked my daughter, Christina, to be a guest reviewer for this post! hope you like her review!)