A young girl lies about her age to get a job as secretary in a guest house somewhere in Ireland, and falls in love with the owner and proprietor. Judy is 20, Raff is 35, and the other woman is the glamorous Marcia.
Cloud Castle isn’t the most satisfying of Seale’s novels. There are several problems. Raff is continually, thoroughly blind and resistant to be told about the way Marcia and her brother Noël are ripping him off. A stupid, clueless, gullible hero is not a sexy prospect. He’s also involved with Marcia until nearly the end of the book: there’s a time when they passionately kiss (right in front of Judy – Raff later berates her for not “knocking over her glass” – this happens on page 93, well over half way through the book), even though Raff later claims to have been long over Marcia.
“The time had come to marry and raise children, I thought, and Marcia was beautiful and seemed a fitting châtelaine for my home – I had never, you see, had a great deal to do with women. It would seem ungallant to say that she made the running if she hadn’t already admitted it herself, but I never, believe me, gave her grounds for such a supposition once you were here.”
Really? Because Marcia and Raff have had an explicit conversation about matrimony only a couple of chapters earlier, where he questions whether she is ready to “settle down” and “raise children”, and they both discuss getting rid of Judy. Raff ends the conversation thus:
“Will you bear with me a little longer?” he said. “I’d not ask a woman to marry me unless I was sure.”
How is that not giving Marcia grounds for hope?!
But that’s not really the biggest problem. The biggest problem is Raff’s Long Lost Love. Kathy, who got polio and died, which was apparently a “mercy” because she wouldn’t have liked to have lived as a cripple. (A greater “mercy” might have been not getting polio in the first place.
Anyway, they never stop going on about Kathy, even though she seems to have died well over a decade ago. She is constantly mentioned, even in the final love-declaration scene. If Rebecca was titled Rebecca due to the ongoing obsession with an already long-dead character, Cloud Castle would be better titled KathyKathyKathy.