Sunday, April 3, 2011


keys to the castle cover

As a no-nonsense career woman in her mid-forties, single and childless, Sara Graves has given up on ever having a family and the metaphorical white picket fence. But then she has a nervous breakdown, quits her job, and falls head-over-heels in love with a French poet. In no time at all, they're married.

And in even less time than that, Sara's husband is dead. She travels to France to settle his estate, convinced that her one chance at love is gone forever--but in fact it's only just beginning.

This is a sweet, charming book. It definitely has a fairy-tale quality to it, although it doesn't follow any specific fairy tale. When Sara first arrives at Château Rondelais, it seems like an enchanted palace, like the castle in Beauty and the Beast. It doesn't take long for Sara to realize that an estate like this is a huge financial burden and she probably can't afford it; but that reality never diminishes the seductiveness of the castle. She falls in love with both it, and the co-owner.

Ash, the hero, is a prince charming in the unlikely guise of a lawyer. He's a smooth operator and very good at persuading people to do exactly what he wants. He also rocks it out LIKE A BOSS and has a mysterious dark side (how can he not, right?). Ash brings several other characters to Château Rondelais, including his serpentine ex-wife, and his mother, who is sort of like a fairy godmother character.

The great thing about this novel is that, even though you could call it a romance, it's really all about second chances. Both Ash and Sara have ruined relationships, burned bridges, and are much older than your average hero and heroine. Yet they really get a new start with each other and the château. This is a novel that is full of hope and the warm fuzzies.

It's also a little anachronistic, in a good way. The characters all have cell phones and use the internets, but still the book feels like it could have just as easily been written in the 1960s--or '70s or '80s--as the 2010s. It really reminded me of the romantic suspense novels of Mary Stewart or Barbara Michaels, except without dead bodies. In other words, there's a timeless quality to the book that makes it a perfect escape.

If you're looking for a charming, lightly romantic read, I definitely recommend Keys to the Castle.

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