There are spoilers in this review, but I’ll give a heads-up so that you can skip that part if you want 🙂
Book: The Gilded Cage
Author: Lucinda Gray
Summary: After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can’t accept that her brother’s death was an accident.
A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There’s a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother’s killer claim her life, too?
Katherine Randolph is the main character of the book and is probably the best fleshed out character. She’s feisty, strong, and not like most girls that you’d find in England’s high society. She’s also pretty stubborn, in my opinion, but not in a good way. I’ll elaborate on that later.
George Randolph is Kat’s brother. He’s described as a dreamer, artist, and in the few glimpses we have of him, as a loving brother who loves to tease. And then the tragedy occurs.
Henry and Grace Campion are Katherine’s cousins who are her and George’s guardians. From the start, they are very unlikable, especially Grace. She really fits into the world of aristocracy and I don’t mind at all what happened to her eventually. Henry is a mystery that grows even deeper as the story progresses.
There are several other side characters but I’m not going to bother mentioning them all.
I am going to start by complaining about the more trivial things. I have a hard time understanding Kat and Grace’s relationship biologically, and it isn’t helped by the fact that Grace calls Kat ‘Cousin’, and Kat calls Grace ‘Aunt’.
Before I can answer, Grace sails in, attired for visiting. A belted salmon dress makes the most of her narrow waist, and under the wide brim of a matching hat, her face looks nearly pretty-but, as always, a bit too thin.
“I hope you slept well, cousin,” she says.
Next Page –
“Surely we can trust Elsie, Aunt Grace. She’s been here since she was just old enough to work, has she not?”
Probably something to do with respect? I don’t know. Let’s move on to the romance.
The romance in this book was horrendous and is an insult to all other books in the genre. I picked up the book because there was nothing about romance in the synopsis and it wasn’t classified as one. I know that most books have some degree of romance in them, but this was terrible. Best description is a love triangle that isn’t a love triangle. Both of her ‘love interests’ are pretty flat and one dimensional and we don’t really get to know or meet them. And other readers (on Goodreads) noted it wasn’t anything really developed either.
Insta-love + love triangle that isn’t a love triangle = disaster
Kat is a very head-strong character and its also the reason why she doesn’t really fit into England’s high society. She is absolutely sure that the ex-gamekeeper of the estate is the murderer and doesn’t examine any other possibilities.
“This is my brother’s blood, on his paintbrush. I found the place where he was painting just before he died, and this was buried in the snow. Stella found it, really. And the old poacher, Mr. McAllister, came upon me there-what are the chances the he would be at the very spot? He knows something, Henry-something he doesn’t want to say.”
I cradle the cool little body in my arms. She’s even smaller than death-a true runt. “Henry,” I say, “McAllister did this. He threatened her, and now he’s made good on it. That man killed my dog.”
“Mr. Dowling, I’m a poor companion today,” I say apologetically. ‘But as we have a moment to speak, I must ask you again about your thoughts on Mr. McAllister. (A spoiler has been removed) and McAllister such a menace-we know him to be a thief, and to have great knowledge of the woods about Waltingham-”
I could go on and on, but I don’t have the book anymore and its tedious to type everything out.
I’ll give Kat credit though, she at least went to investigate the spot where she believed her brother died, but I’m still annoyed and very upset.
The end of this book was just so rushed, not properly written (in my opinion) and didn’t make sense.
[ How did John manage to place the note inside George’s watch if Henry planted it on him as ‘evidence’ that he’s a thief and that it was ‘for the best’?
And I really don’t get the asylum part. Henry dragged her off there with the help of the doctor and some other guy who is his friend and wanted to claim Waltingham Hall for himself? How’d he think that would work considering that Mr. Simpson is the estate’s lawyer and is on very good terms with Kat? He wouldn’t believe that she’d just run away or whatever. And the end was rushed. I would have liked to see a little bit of planning, anticipation, something going wrong etc…
It’s also pretty hilarious how Kat thinks she can just waltz back into her old life in Virginia after this whole ordeal. I mean, I’m quoting her:
“Hello, Katherine,” says the woman, finally looking at me. She’s slender and stands as tall as a man. Her hair, scraped back from her spare face, is as black as mine.
“I am Lady Katherine.” I say, shivering and ridiculous in my nightdress.
It would be awesome to see her back in Virginia trying to adjust back to the farm girl life.
Also, could someone please explain the definition of ‘spare face’? ]
END OF SPOILER
Overall: It wasn’t the best book, but it gets two stars for a good idea, a realistic setting, and an extra .5 star for being one of the few historical mystery books out there. It was a light read and helped pass the time.