I am currently exactly halfway through Patrice Kindl’s A School for Brides, the companion to 2012’s Keeping the Castle, and I am already dying for more. Dying for more books by Patrice Kindl—but that’s a given, now and always—and also dying for more historical comedies, whether they are comedies of manners, snarky social satire, or slapstick. So far, A School for Brides is the best sort of story, in that it’s a combination of those three comedy types.
It’s set at the Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy, a school that specializes in teaching girls to be enchanting enough to catch themselves husbands…but it’s located in Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, where there is nary an eligible bachelor—let alone one with a title or a fortune—in sight. There are eight girls enrolled, all very different—one is so shy that she’s always hiding in the depths of her bonnet, one is a bluestocking, one is an heiress who’s receiving letters from a possibly sketchy secret admirer, and one, of course, is a wit—and they spend their days working on posture and the pianoforte. Which is to say that most of the time, they’re bored out of their skulls.
But then, they find an eligible young bachelor in the bushes—yes, literally—and his friends descend on the school, and everything begins to change at once.
Like Keeping the Castle, it reads like a P.G. Wodehouse story that takes place in a Jane Austen world, in that every other paragraph contains something worth savoring, sharing, and reading aloud. For instance:
At the breakfast table one morning several weeks after the wedding, the aggrieved bridegroom had taken a stand: “Either she leaves this household or I do,” he said, fixing his bride with a stern eye. His complaint was that his new sister-in-law had pilfered his entire stock of handkerchiefs in order to embroider them with some of the more judgmental verses from the Bible.
He goes on to say, “Why cannot she nurse lepers or something of the sort? Surely she could go and harass the deserving poor, instead of lecturing me,” which made me laugh and laugh.
Anyway, it’s lovely. And I know that once I’ve finished, I’ll want more. I want something like Sorcery & Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, which is a laugh-out-loud epistolary novel about magic and mayhem and manners and yes, romance. Actually, now that I think about it, judging by the little bit of Jessica Day George’s upcoming Silver in the Blood I’ve read, I suspect that one will be JUST THE THING, so up to the top of the pile it goes….
But I want more, more, more. I want Georgette Heyer, minus the anti-Semitism. I want more books like Laura L. Sullivan’s Ladies in Waiting (different era, but the comedy is top-notch) or Love By the Morning Star (ditto), or like Shannon Hale’s Austenland (ditto again), or even something geared a bit younger, like Stephanie Burgis’ Kat, Incorrigible.
So. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is two-fold:
- Please, I beg of you, find me some more comedic historicals, and...
- ...if possible, find me some that feature diverse casts of characters, preferably by diverse authors.
I thank you!
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.