Kindl, Patrice. Keeping the Castle. Viking, 2012. 261p. Grades 6-12. Historical Fiction.
Seventeen-year-old Althea Crawley, tasked with saving her family’s ancestral (and crumbling) castle, must find a suitable husband—soon. Unfortunately for her, the pastoral village of Lesser Hoo is not exactly teeming with possible suitors. That is, until Lord Boring and his cousin Mr. Fredricks arrive and become the targets of affection for Althea and her odious step-sisters. Written in impeccable Regency style and filled with gentle humor and wit, this novel is a perfect match for lovers of Jane Austen and Patrice Kindl alike.
Thoughts- So. Much. Fun! Keeping the Castle is fluff…but it’s really, really well-done fluff. Kindl follows a typical romance novel plot—boy and girl meet, girl says she doesn’t like boy, girl slowly comes to the realization that boy is wonderful, and they end up together. Despite these tropes, Kindl manages to inject a lot of personality into all of her characters (especially Althea), and she makes the village of Lesser Hoo and its inhabitants so interesting and loveable that the weakness of the plot is pretty much a moot point.
One aspect of this novel I found to be extremely charming is the way Kindl keeps so many characteristics of Regency writing while still creating a story for modern readers. The dialogue in Keeping the Castle sounds very period, and the plot conventions will be familiar to readers of both Jane Austen and romance authors like Georgette Heyer. That being said, this book still feels contemporary to me. You quickly adjust to the somewhat archaic dialogue, and the plot moves along at a fast pace, much like most contemporary YA romances. I do think the book speaks more strongly to readers who have some experience with Austen’s writing, but I could also see it working as a bridge between current romance fiction and the classics.
The primary reason I think Keeping the Castle rises above its almost formulaic plot is the characterization. All of the major characters (Althea, Lord Boring, Mr. Fredericks, the step-sisters) are finely drawn, fleshed-out people; most of all, they are funny without being caricatures. I would recommend this book to someone looking for a fun, frothy romance or maybe to a teacher trying to find starter material for a unit on one of Austen’s works.