From the desk of Keira Soleore:
Dear Readers, when I first set sight on the cover of Kingscastle, I knew I had to read it. I was pleased to see that the story lives up to the promise of Lee Avison’s cover design. Much in the same style as the Traditional Regency novels of the 1980s, Kingscastle is a quiet, character-driven story set in the countryside, complete with an imposing castle, a local vicar, a small village, torrents of rain, and a harridan of a beldame. I was tickled pink to discover that Holloway had given the hero the title “Athelney,” which is the name of the village that is best known for once being the fortress hiding place of my favorite king Alfred the Great. Holloway also writes medieval murder mysteries, and I wonder if she is just as fascinated with King Alfred as I am.
The Upright Hero
With the wars over, Captain William Hawksmoor of His Majesty’s Royal Navy is now back on England’s shores. He is shocked to discover that he is the new Marquis of Athelney with all its attendant responsibilities. For a younger son of a youngest son, he had never thought himself in the running for the title. It takes some convincing, but his lordship’s personality is such that once he knows he has to do something, he is all in. He has commanded warships, and now he intends to command his extensive estates to the best of his ability. He is not one to sit idly by and allow his land stewards to manage, or mismanage, them.
“Was a marquis expected to sit in aloof state while minions did everything? If that was the case, well, he would simply be one marquis who did not conform to the norm.” (Loc 95)
The only part of this entire business that incites Athelney’s wrath is the stipulation in the will that he must marry within two years and produce an heir, otherwise, the estates will be held in Trust in perpetuity. The family solicitor believes the “heir” part of the will can be overturned, but the marriage stipulation still stands. So, marry he must.
The Silently Defiant Heroine
Eleanor Burgess is a lowly paid companion to Lady Willoughby Hawksmoor, who lives in the Dower House on the Kingscastle estate grounds. In a family of daughters on a parson’s salary, Eleanor has resigned herself to never marrying and has accepted employment to help her father’s finances. Though outwardly pliable, she holds the autocratic, and monumentally stupid, Lady Willoughby in silent contempt. It is a miracle that she has survived with her sense of humor and hope for the future intact.
“She looked him in the eye. Her voice was controlled, but he thought that however subservient her outward demeanor, she disliked being treated as an object, and had inner spirit.” (Loc 377)
The Dastardly Plan
While Athelney wrestles with all the intricacies of the move from naval to civilian life, Eleanor struggles with maintaining her equanimity in the face of her employer’s depredations against her. Both of their interests are snagged by the other.
As a result, both are shocked when Lady Willoughby arrogantly announces that her younger daughter will, of course, become Athelney’s bride. The sheer effrontery and presumption, like the people in her life are but pawns for her to move around to her satisfaction, is breathtaking. Patterned very much on Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Holloway has done an excellent job of casting her villainess.
“Your case is urgent. A wife is a wife. You will find Charlotte biddable, unobtrusive, and perfectly suited to the role she will assume.” (Loc 377)
“You are under a gross misapprehension, Lady Willoughby. If I make any lady an offer, it will be my choice. I will not have a wife thrust upon me.” (Loc 382)
The main secondary romance between the marquis’ former lieutenant, now steward, and the vicar’s sister is sweet and well-developed. Holloway does not give short shrift in the development of their love story, while also not detracting from the main couple’s story. There is also another romance that is sketched in slender details but enough to hint at its happily ever after.
With spare words, Holloway paints a detailed picture of her protagonists throughout the narrative. While Eleanor naturally pulls the readers’ attention due to her pitiable plight, her redoubtable strength of character causes us to cheer. Athelney arouses admiration for how he stands up for what he believes in and allows no one to steamroll over him, while at the same time, comes across as a gentleman of kindness and thoughtfulness.
While the main couple aren’t as much together on the page as modern historicals would have them, their understated and slowly budding romance unfolds in a style perfectly appropriate for the type of book Holloway is writing – the traditional Regency.
4 out of 5 Stars
Keira Soleore is a book reviewer for Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, BookPage, Washington Independent Review of Books, Foreword Reviews, and the International Examiner.
- Kingscastle: A Classic Regency Romance in the Tradition of Georgette Heyer, by Sophia Holloway
- Allison & Busby (November 18, 2021)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (320) pages
- ISBN: 978-0749027834
- Genre: Regency Romance, Historical Romance
We purchased a copy of the book for our own enjoyment. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Allison & Busby © 2021; Keira Soleore © 2022, austenprose.com.