From the desk of Katie Patchell:
In 2012, author Patrice Kindl published her Regency debut, Keeping the Castle. Heralded by critics as part Jane Austen and part I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith’s classic), Keeping the Castle is set in the memorable town of Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, and filled with quirky (and mostly loveable) characters, witty and very quote-worthy lines, and one very spectacular heroine. Really, what’s not to love? Sadly, a return to the characters and town discovered in Keeping the Castle seemed only possible through a re-read rather than a sequel…until this month, that is! In A School for Brides, Patrice Kindl’s companion novel to Keeping the Castle, readers return to the small village of Lesser Hoo to see the latest comedic mayhem caused by old and new residents alike.
“Mark my words. If something drastic is not done, none of us shall ever marry. We are doomed to die old maids, banished to the seat farthest from the fire, served with the toughest cuts of meat and the weakest cups of tea, objects of pity and scorn to all we meet. That shall be our fate, so long as we remain in Lesser Hoo.” (1)
Such are the dramatic, albeit accurate, words of Miss Asquith to the seven other members of the Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy. Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, has very little to offer in the way of eligible gentlemen, a fact Althea of Crawley Castle knew oh-so-well in Keeping the Castle. But Miss Asquith and her fellow schoolmates are too stubborn to give up their hunt for husbands just because there are no single men insight. Their patience is rewarded when an eligible gentleman is found injured in a bush, and to top it all off, some of his single, rich friends arrive for an extended visit. What can eight single maidens do but don their metaphorical hunting gear and give chase? When an evil governess arrives, family jewels disappear, a mysterious suitor comes sniffing around, and telescope parties under the stars provide the perfect cover for mischief, the students at the Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy soon find themselves facing a greater dilemma than simply bewitching their eligible gentlemen: maneuvering for a proposal.
Before reviewing A School for Brides, I decided to re-read my copy of Keeping the Castle. I’m so glad I did—not only was it great to revisit the world of Lesser Hoo and its eccentric inhabitants, but it was also fun to read Althea’s delightful story again and to revisit the decrepit but charming Crawley Castle. I also rediscovered Kindl’s comical plots and brilliant way with words—two things that are both present in A School for Brides. While there are so many moments of both that it’s impossible to include them all, here are a few gems:
Miss le Strange peered at this interloper through the silver lorgnette she kept on a chain around her neck. She in fact possessed excellent eyesight, but found that being scrutinized in this manner was apt to make social inferiors uneasy. Miss Mainwaring, who had had some experience of tigresses in her former life, remained unperturbed. (190)
As Miss Mainwaring had faced actual tigers in the jungles of India, readers find an added layer of humor within their interaction.
Or this wry insight into a particular gentleman’s views:
He was a rather ugly man of few social attainments, but yet was inclined to feel that his three thousand acres and healthy income entitled him to a handsome and accomplished wife. He had looked upon the Winthrop Hopkins Academy as his own private hunting preserve, so to speak, and resented the intrusion of others who might be more accomplished sportsmen, and so carry off all the game. (61)
And now this unique revelation as thought by Althea in the middle of Keeping the Castle:
…When I had said that I was glad to see him again earlier, it was no more and no less than the truth. As exasperating as he was, in an odd way he stimulated and amused me. While he had been away I had felt a certain bland sameness, as though my life lacked a sprinkle of salt and a splash of lemon juice. (Keeping the Castle, p. 158)
Last but not least, a section from the absolutely hilarious opening chapter of Keeping the Castle:
“I love you, Althea—you are so beautiful,” murmured the young man into my ear.
Well, I was willing enough. I looked up at him from under my eyelashes. “I love you too,” I confessed. I averted my gaze and added privately, “You are so rich.”
Unfortunately, I apparently said this aloud, if just barely, and his hearing was sharper than one would expect, given his other attributes.
”I beg your pardon? You love me because I’m rich?”
Not only because of that,” I hastened to assure him….
“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. (Keeping the Castle, p. 1-2)
At this point in my review, I feel I should say that a read of Keeping the Castle isn’t necessary in order to enjoy A School for Brides, which is a delight in and of itself. However, the first in the pair is such an enjoyable novel with its own beloved characters—some of whom appear in its companion—that I suggest reading both novels in order for double the fun.
While I slightly liked the driving force behind Althea’s actions in Keeping the Castle better than those of the female students in A School for Brides (Althea needs to marry to save her family home—the girl students in the sequel want to marry to gain a new home), each of the girl’s stories that play out during the course of A School for Brides is very entertaining. The novel’s play-like quality—even more present than in the original—made it a laugh-out-loud comedy that was easy to picture, and reminiscent of Oliver Goldsmith’s hilarious 18th-century play, She Stoops to Conquer. Witty, delightful and brilliantly crafted, I highly recommend A School for Brides as well as its earlier companion novel to anyone from ages 12-92.
5 out of 5 Stars
A School for Brides: A Story of Maidens, Mystery, and Matrimony, by Patrice Kindl
Viking Books (2015)
Hardcover & eBook (272) pages
Cover image courtesy of Viking Books © 2015; text Patrice Kindl © 2015, Austenprose.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”