Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
Goodreads: Keeping the Castle
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Althea’s ancestor built his dream home, a castle, on the cliffs of Yorkshire. Weather and a poor foundation, however, have wreaked havoc upon the building and penniless Althea and her mother can do little to save it. Their one hope lies in Althea’s making a good marriage, but few suitable men live in the area—until the arrival of Lord Boring and his party. Althea accordingly sets her mind to win Lord Boring’s heart (and his wealth), but his friend Mr. Fredericks has an awful habit of ruining all her plans.
Review: Kindl’s parody of the Regency romance has appeal for those readers who enjoy Jane Austen but are not above having a laugh at some of the period conventions or the genre stock elements. The careful inclusion of just about every stereotyped character from the evil stepsisters to the infuriating love interest, as well as some overused plot devices, heightens the absurdity and ensures readers find themselves smiling from the first page. The humor is completed by the characters’ overly serious assessment of the situations in which they find themselves.
The protagonist Althea proves the key to maintaining the satiric tone of the novel. She comments on everything that happens and shows herself to be no Elizabeth Bennett. She not only knows she has to marry for money, but also goes about it with unexpected gusto. Her heart never troubles her as she sets her plots in motion, attempting to snare the man with the greatest income even as readers can discern she might be falling for another.
Althea’s complete obliviousness to her feelings—and to the feelings of those around her—however, threatens the credibility of the story and can leave readers feeling disengaged. She undergoes no transformation and ends the story as mercenary and apparently heartless as she began it. The flaunted contrivance of the story is the point, yes, and yet most readers probably had hope the romance would not be contrived, would be real. Instead, the ending proposal feels anticlimactic. Kindl gives no happily-ever-after, only another farce in a series of farces.
Keeping the Castle may while away an afternoon for a devoted Austenite in search of new material, but has not the substance to recommend it for rereading. Its premise suggests that it will speak to that part of the Austenite that delights in romance and right endings, but it refuses to break from parody long enough to do so. Expect a light, fluffy read, however, and you might still enjoy it.