Several years after the events of Keeping the Castle (2012), the Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy has opened in the rainy hamlet of Lesser Hoo. The school’s mission: to ready eight young ladies, ages 12 to 19, for the marriage market.
Given the remote location—coastal Yorkshire—potential grooms are in short supply (there’s one) until a presentable young man walking in the vicinity breaks his leg. Brought into the school to heal, he’s soon joined by friends. Rounding out the male prospects is a mysterious gentleman billeted at the local inn. Though all are single, the road to marital bliss is lined with potholes. Miss Asquith is attractive, delightful, and wealthy, but her father’s business, a low-status gin distillery, is likely to deter eligible mates. Down-to-earth Miss Pffolliott is vexed by a strange man claiming to be her devoted admirer. Closet scientist and would-be astronomer Miss Franklin pursues a man with his own telescope. Intricate subplots with exceptionally vivid characters (Crooked Castle residents among them) add to the fun. Historical novels attempting the Regency comedy of manners can read like leaden, uninspired fan fiction. This affectionate homage to the genre delivers what’s missing: a witty, intelligent plot whose characters—complex, conniving, hypocritical, and hilarious—seek happiness within an ordered world.
This airy soufflé of a tale, garnished with quirky charm, is an unmitigated delight from start to finish. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-18)