The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray

the-gilded-cageBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Henry Holt and Company, 2016
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 245 pages; 22 cm.
  • Interest Level:  YA
  • 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 she discovers the corpse of her brother George in a lake on the estate-the tragic accidental drowning of a young man, the coroner reports, despite the wound to George’s head.  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?

  • ISBN: 978-1-62779-181-6
  • Subjects:
    • English History – Fiction
    • American History – Fiction
    • Women’s Rights – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: My brother lies dead, cold and pale in another wing of this huge old place.  But my anger is not cold, it’s hot as a Virginia summer and I will have justice.

Plot Summary:  Picked up from the wilds of 1821 Virginia and transplanted to the gilded halls of an English manor home, young Katherine Randolph finds that all that glitters is not gold.  When she and her older brother, George, are told they are the inheritors of a lordship in England upon the death of a grandfather they knew nothing about, they left the rural Virginia farm where they lived to embrace a new way of life in the old country.  But shortly after they’ve arrived, George is found dead and presumed drowned, something Katherine refuses to accept.  She believes she was murdered and her efforts to determine how he died leads to another death and the realization that both deaths were the result of foul play.  Katherine finds herself first sedated to control her investigation then committed to a mental when she becomes a risk to those responsible.  With the help of a clever young lawyer she escapes and works to being justice to the evil doers.

Critical Evaluation:  One of the first Gothic romances I ever read was written by Victoria Holt but it’s been so long I couldn’t tell you which one.  What I can tell you is it was better than this one.  Books written by writers such as Holt or Barbara Michael’s could easily be read by YA readers today as they lacked any objectionable materials but were replete with danger and tension, two things sadly lacking in this book.  I chose this book for my library collection because of the cover and because the kids in my school like books like this but I am very disappointed in it.  The initial introduction of the main character Katherine presents us with a young woman of early America who is practicing with a rifle and shooting tin cans.  This was the first point that gave me pause as tin cans did not become widely used in the US until around 1840.  The second problem can with the discussion of fashions the women wore in England.  The author mentions crinolines but 1821 England was the period associated with Jane Austen and with simple, Greek inspired dresses. So, why are these two minor points important?  Because they demonstrate a lack of respect by the author for the genre and the history of the characters she is writing about.  She starts off with the possibility of a strong female character but writes her in an inconsistent manner.  On the one hand she is convinced her brother is murdered but then she allows people to give her medications to make her more controllable.  Overall, the reader is left with the idea that the books was thrown together from bits and pieces of other better gothic novels but with no real respect or understanding of the genre.

Author’s Brief Bio:  [Information about this author is very limited.] Lucinda Gray is the pseudonym of an American novelist who lives in New York. Retrieved from

Genre Designation: Mystery (Historical)

Possible Curriculum Links: Women’s roles in history.

Book Talk Ideas:  How far would you go to find the truth?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:


Why this book was selected.  I like historical mysteries and this one looked interesting.


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