REVIEW: Meet Me At the Castle by Denise A. Agnew
Dear Ms. Agnew,
I’ll admit it – I was skeptical at first. When I requested the title, I was under the mistaken impression it was a full length historical romance novel rather than something much shorter. How could the full story described fit into just 44 pages, I wondered. I was very pleasantly surprised, I must say.
Elizabeth Albright is considered a spinster by the standards of her time – and she’s considered more than a little strange by her well-to-do family. It’s 1848 in rural England, and she’s an artist, at heart, with her chosen subject the ruins of nearby Cromar Castle. Her passion, in fact, borders on obsession. The nearby ruins have fascinated her since childhood, compelling her to paint and sketch them from every available vantage point. They provide her with a sense of peace and security, even though she often feels someone is there with her. Enter the mysterious Damian. She only sees him at the ruins, and only occasionally. Even though Elizabeth is quite content with her life, and the occasional clandestine meeting with her handsome stranger, her wicked stepmother pressures Elizabeth’s father to send the girl to London for a husband. Will she find one before the mystery of her castle stranger is solved?
Ok, the stepmother? She’s SO the wicked, evil, nasty stepmother from just about every fairy tale ever written. Even though we didn’t spend much time with the woman, she made my skin crawl. Elizabeth’s father, too. There’s a textbook worth of psychology and history lessons just from those two. Though, speaking of history, the handsome Damian needs a mention or two. I absolutely loved the little bit of paranormal woven through the story. It was just a taste – enough to tantalize and tease, but not so much that it overran the story. If this had been a novel-length piece, I would have liked to see the explanation behind Damian explained a little more. Given the published length, however, I think the explanation given was absolutely perfect.
Elizabeth is a very…interesting character in quite a few respects. We meet a woman who really doesn’t have the time or inclination for the traditional female fripperies of the mid-1800s gentility. She’s been “trained” in proper behavior (and yes, that word is in quotes for a reason – despite my love of historical romance, the gender norms of the 1800s drive me slightly insane), and observes it – to a point. I truly enjoy the fact that you don’t shove the typical 1800s ideas and ideals down our throats. They’re mentioned, but more in passing, to give us context. Elizabeth could have been more 2-dimensional, but you took the time to let the story unfold as it would rather than forcing either character into any singular mold.
Ok, so the story IS a bit predictable. When someone picks up historical romance (or any romance, for that matter), they always know there’s going to be a happy ending. Perhaps some of the characters get knocked around along the way and perhaps they have to face some nasty trials to get that point, but we ALWAYS know that, like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the happily ever after -will- show up..
If there was one thing that absolutely sold me on this story was the ending. I’m not going to spoil it for other readers, but it absolutely delighted me that you went in completely the opposite direction from most other historical novels. I can genuinely say that I did NOT see that coming. In fact, when I got to the ending, all I could think of was that I wanted more and I wanted it right now. There’s definitely a full length novel simmering under this story – or, at the very least, a sequel or two. Elizabeth DOES have a beloved brother, you know… (hint, hint). B
Waiting Here with Bribes for the Author,