Review: The Castle Keepers by Aimee Runyan, J’nell Ciesielski, and Rachel McMillan

Over the years I have enjoyed each of these authors on an independent basis. I love all of their respective books individually and I was so thrilled to see that these three powerhouse writers were teaming up to write a collaborative novel! Obviously no one had to twist my arm to get me to review this one, it was an absolute no brainer!

Sometimes collaborative novels can be difficult. I have only really seen a couple of writing teams successful with it. It can be hard blending different writing styles let alone character visions. I believe this is the first collaboration for these three authors as well which can sometimes bring its own set of challenges but I had so much confidence in these three authors that I knew I was going to read something special!

All three authors are so strong and have written such great novels prior to this do if you read this book and enjoy it, then you should certainly check out their own individual books as they are all so wonderful. But if you are looking for a book that feels a little more ‘saga ish’ and sweeping, this is a multigenerational novel with lots to enjoy, devour and unpack! I really really loved my time with the characters and plots!


Leedswick Castle has housed the Alnwick family in the English countryside for generations, despite a family curse determined to destroy their legacy and erase them from history.

1870. After a disastrous dinner at the Astor mansion forces her to flee New York in disgrace, socialite Beatrice Holbrook knows her performance in London must be a triumph. When she catches the eye of Charles Alnwick, one of the town’s most enviably-titled bachelors, she prepares to attempt a social coup and become the future Marchioness of Northridge. When tragedy and scandal strike the Alnwick family, Beatrice must assume the role of a lifetime: that of her true, brave self.

1917. Artist Elena Hamilton arrives in Northumberland determined to transform a soldier’s wounds into something beautiful. Tobias Alnwick’s parents have commissioned a lifelike mask to help their son return to his former self after battle wounds partially destroyed his face. But Elena doesn’t see a man who needs fixing—she sees a man who needn’t hide. Yet secrets from their past threaten to chase away the peace they’ve found in each other and destroy the future they’re creating.

1945. Alec Alnwick returns home from the war haunted but determined to leave death and destruction behind. With the help of Brigitta Mayr, the brilliant young psychoanalyst whose correspondence was a lifeline during his time on the Western Front, he reconstructs his family’s large estate into a rehabilitation center for similarly wounded soldiers. Now Alec’s efforts may be the only chance to redeem his family legacy—and break the curse on the Alnwick name—once and for all. (summary from Goodreads)


After reading some other historical fiction novels that were more mystery in nature, I was ready for something more sweeping and saga-ish. I love generational novels with complex characters, twisty plots and historical details. The first thing I noticed about this novel when I started it was it would cover three big time periods that I am a fan of—late Victorian, Edwardian/WWI, and WWII. A bulk of historical fiction novels are set during this time, but for me it never gets old! I was especially excited to read the WWI part, that is my favorite historical setting and I was eager to get to that section of the book. I was surprised that I ended up like Beatrice’s (Victorian) story a little better than Elena’s (WWI). For some reason I felt more of a connection with Beatrice than Elena. The story really focuses on the heirs of the Alnwick family of which the women in their life are part of and for me, I just liked Beatrice and Charles’s story the best. The others were good and enjoyable but for me, Beatrice stole the show.

The book reads more like three novellas which was fine but I would have liked to have seen a little more blending of the plots. Novellas are so hard, you have the draw readers in super fast AND wrap things up in a condensed number of pages and I felt like the authors struggled with the length of each story to execute all the things they wanted to incorporate. That’s not to say the book wasn’t good—I did really really really enjoy it but having read their own independent works, I can see the areas they were struggling in. I liked the constant of the Alnwick family and the castle, but it might have been easier to somehow write three different characters within the same time period of the house? I am not sure, but I think that might have helped make things a little easier to expand on within the shortened novel. Or maybe just make the novel longer to give the authors more time to develop and expand their characters and stories in the way they had hoped.

Overall this was a good novel and I hope these three authors team up again for more! Sometimes the first go around can be a little trial and error so I am hoping they write more collaborative works in the future. I did enjoy my time with this book and felt satisfied with how it all wrapped up. I loved the stories and characters but I wish we had more time to develop some of those stories to their fullest potential. If you love historical fiction with romance though, you can’t go wrong with these three authors. They are strong and seasoned writers and I think you will enjoy this collaboration plus their individual works. Reading this book made me long for more historical family saga novels and I can’t wait for more like this!

Book Info and Rating

Format 384 pages, Paperback

Published May 2, 2023 by Harper Muse

ISBN 9780785265320 (ISBN10: 0785265325)

Free review copy provided by publisher, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced

Rating: 4 stars

Genre: historical fiction


Charming comments go here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s