I’ve been in the mood for some YA historical fiction, something light and fun, so I broke out my recent purchase, Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl. This is billed as a cross between I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and Jane Austen. Since I’ve always been a fan of Austen and recently read and absolutely loved I Capture the Castle, I couldn’t pass this one up.
Her chances improve when Lord Boring comes to claim a neighboring manor upon the death of his uncle. It turns out Lord Boring is young, charming, and naturally very rich. Althea decides to marry him. He seems to be taken with her good looks, just as she intends. However, there are a few difficulties. First, one of her stepsisters is equally determined to snare him. Second, a guest in his home, Miss Vincy, appears to have a prior claim on him. While she is plain (and Lord Boring has expressed a distaste for her appearance), she is very wealthy, and Lord Boring’s mother favors her. And finally, there is Mr. Fredericks. This is Lord Borings cousin and business manager. Antisocial and blunt to the point of rudeness, Althea has to put up with him, too, if she wants to spend time with Lord Boring.
The book is fast-paced and cute. The plotting is pretty predictable since it was a romance/comedy of manners that revolved around Althea and her sisters plotting marriage. It was entertaining and the ending satisfied all around. This would be particularly good for younger YA readers who like historical fiction.
Son of Venice continues the story begun in Daughter of Xanadu, set in thirteenth century China. In that book, Emmajin, an excellent archer and fictional granddaughter of Khubilai Khan, poured all her energy into her dream of becoming the first woman soldier in the Mongol army. When she met Marco Polo, a traveling merchant from Venice, he fascinated her with tales of romantic love and caused her to question her ambition. Son of Venice picks up the story as Emmajin begins her journey to the West, assigned by Khubilai Khan to carry a letter to establish peace and cooperation between her homeland and Marco Polo’s. Marco is to travel in the same caravan. But a shaman’s warning of traitors and danger casts a shadow over their journey. Emmajin wants to win respect as an ambassador of the Great Khan and also to enjoy her time with Marco Polo. But her guards—and her cousin, Temur—insist on keeping them apart. Plus, as she travels west with the army, she begins to doubt the Khan’s intentions. Does he really want her to make peace with the West? Told in alternating points of view, this book follows the adventures of Emmajin and Marco Polo as they head west along the Silk Road. They face battles, intrigue, sinister plots, and unexpected challenges to their unconventional love. Can Marco’s famed eloquence and cleverness help when Emmajin faces perils beyond any she imagined?