The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken, finished 2:17, 149 pages. Time out for lunch and getting hair done.
This was a reread of a childhood favorite. I'm happy to report it stood the test of time, with the adventure & Gothic elements I remembered.
What does Wolves have?
Evil governesses, stolen fortunes, prison like boarding school, escape, shipwrecks, poor & sickly Aunts, brave kids, orphans, last-minute surprises, kindly people, mean people, food, funny names, secret passages, grand houses, poverty, and of course wolves; it has it all.
The plot and characterization remain solid; but I still don't see anything here that says, Alternate World. The "unrealistic" elements just seem part of the natural order of things; or the nature of it being set in another country and another time. In reading a bit about this series (comments in Amazon, I imagine that the AU is clear in the books that are sequels to this one) (tho I also understand they are not sequels per se).
Cousins Sylvia and Bonnie Green are "cool girls," particularly cool in their friendship and in their strengths and weaknesses, which complement each other nicely. I like when there is more than one way of being cool. I especially like that a rich girl like Bonnie isn't an spoiled brat and is constantly appreciative and respectful of those around her, while still being brave, resourceful, and fun.
I'll have to add the other books in this "series" to my To Be Read list.
I'm off to the pile of unread books to decide what I'm in the mood for now....