Every review of this book compares the author to Jane Austen, and uses words like “frothy” and “endearing” to describe it. Many books are compared to Jane Austen’s works, but few can live up to the hype. As a hardcore Janeite, I often try to read these modern imitators, but rarely manage to finish them. To me, most are dry attempts to echo the classic books that I love so much. Keeping the Castle is different. I’m not saying it’s destined to become a classic that will be read and reread for centuries to come. No, I am saying that it is a fun read—one I can recommend to those who love Jane Austen and to those who are just looking for a romantic comedy in a book.
A beautiful young girl named Althea is from a genteel but poor family and knows she must marry well in order to preserve the family home for her younger brother. Althea has two mean-spirited stepsisters who have money of their own, but who refuse to contribute to anyone else’s comfort. Her mother does her best to help, but figuring out how to make the most of the very little moneythey have falls on Althea’s shoulders every day, and she must be both diligent and creative.
Being only 17 years old, Althea is a little too honest sometimes. She loses one suitor when she lets it slip that his money plays a part in her willingness to marry him. But she knows there will be others, and of course there are. Soon a party of friends comes to visit the neighbors, and Althea’s prospects look brighter.
This young adult novel combines elements from Cinderella with Pride and Prejudice,and has a lighthearted fairy tale feel to it. I enjoyed the characters with names like Lord Boring, Lady Throstletwist, and Miss Sneech. But, of course, Althea takes center stage and she is a delightful character—independent, fresh, and witty. She’s a younger Elizabeth Bennet, someone we would all like to know.