After seeing this book on several of the book blogs I follow, I quickly added Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl to my library reserve list. If you enjoy Jane Austen, you will adore this romance set in the Regency period. As a matter of fact, I saw elements from Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility, all three of which I greatly enjoyed. It is a short novel and did only take me two days to read, but it was fun. I have read that it can be considered "a gateway to more Jane Austen" for teens and I love the idea of any YA literature encouraging an appreciation for the classics. The cover of the book also claims that those who liked I Capture the Castle will love this as well. I didn't particularly care for that one as much as I had hoped I would, but this was wonderful.
A young woman of seventeen, Althea, lives in a poorly built castle with her mother, very young brother, and two horrible step-sisters. The family is barely making ends meet and Althea has known for years the only possibility of saving her family from financial ruin is for her to marry well. If she fails to find a wealthy husband, not only will her brother lose his only inheritance, the castle, but the servants and tenant farmers would be left with nothing as well. Fortunately for Althea, she is a well-known beauty in her part of the country. If only she could find the right man...
While some reviewers have objected to the idea of using one's beauty to secure a rich husband, the time in which this novel is set leaves our main character few other options. I love the way the author handles the topic. Love based on beauty is accepted, love based on wealth is not. Or perhaps it is that a man may base his affections on shallow things, but a woman is expected to be accepting of whatever affections come her way.
"'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....
'It's not the same thing,' he said at last, looking sulky. 'Admiration of a woman's beauty in a man is...it's spiritual. It shows he has a soul....But,' he went on, withdrawing his gaze, 'any consideration of the contents of a man's purse by a lady he is courting is...mercenary and shows a cold heart.'"
Later in the book, I loved this quote:
"It never ceases to astound me how often an unattractive man like Mr. Godalming considers himself above marriage to an equally unattractive woman."
This was a fun, very quick read and I would recommend it to any Jane Austen fan. It is even on my Christmas gift list for one or two of them!