The Blue Castle, by L. M. Montgomery (better known for the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon series), is the story of Valancy Stirling, a 29-year-old Old Maid whose overbearing family makes her life miserable. Her only escape is through her daydreams as the chatelaine of a beautiful blue castle. When she finds out she has a terminal form of heart disease and only a year to live, she decides to leave home and at least have some adventures before she dies. She makes friends with the town pariahs: Roaring Abel Gay, an alcoholic; his daughter Cecily, an unmarried mother dying of tuberculosis, and Barney Snaith, a rumored criminal living on an island cottage, soon to become Valancy's love interest. Rather dark by Montgomery's standards, this book is a significant exception to her usual style of light teen romance, and consequently sadly underrated.
The Alcoholic: Roaring Abel, who earned his nickname because of his habit of driving around town drunk, roaring bawdy songs and swear words. Sometimes played for laughs, as he has a different "stage" of behavior according to how drunk he is.
Badass Grandpa: Roaring Abel. At one point he throws one of Valancy's pompous relatives into an asparagus bed for insulting him.
Valancy's unconventional grandfather, Amos Wansbarra, who shocked the clan by giving her her unusual name. Valancy tells her relatives that he was practically the only decent person she had ever known.
The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Roaring Abel is a carpenter, but his own house is falling apart. Dr Redfern is another example: he sells treatments for hair loss and rheumatism, yet he suffers from both. They are implied to work solely on Placebo Effect, though.
Damsel in Distress: Valancy foolishly goes to a dance where some drunken men harrass her. Fortunately, Barney arrives in time.
Deadpan Snarker: Valancy blossoms into one after the news from the doctor, much to her family's dismay.
Aunt Isabel: "Doss, you are horribly thin. You are all corners. Don't you ever try to fatten up?"
Valancy: "No. But I can tell you where to find a beauty parlor in St. Lawrence where they can reduce the number of your chins."
Barney has his moments, too:
Benjamin: "You - you pup!"
Barney: "Why be so unoriginal?"
Disappeared Dad: Valancy's father died of pneumonia when she was a baby, possibly because of his neurotic wife's rule about not lighting fires before October 21st.
Defiled Forever: Subverted. The entire town sees Cecily as this, but Valancy refuses to buy into it, especially since Cecily is a sweet, shy girl who was previously well respected. Later when telling her story, Cecily admits that she didn't even know having sex would lead to pregnancy, and that she refused her boyfriend's dutiful proposal because she could tell he'd fallen out of love with her. She thought trapping him into a loveless marriage would be worse than dealing with the pregnancy by herself. Note that this book was written in the 1920s.
Expository Hairstyle Change: Shortly after Valancy decides to stop deferring to her family, she ditches her outdated pompadour for stylish low puffs. An even more drastic change comes later when Barney bobs her hair.
Extreme Doormat: Valancy at first. She decides to stop letting others push her around when she mistakenly diagnosed with angina pectoris.
The First Cut Is the Deepest: Barney lost all faith in friendship and love after he learnt that his first love was only interested in his father's money. Of course, he had had to go through a lot before that incident, and it was the last straw.
Fourth Date Marriage: A slightly unusual case. Valancy proposes to Barney after a rather short acquaintance, not only because she's falling for him, but to have a place to live after Cissy's death. Barney, knowing about her heart disease, accepts her out of pity and because she's a good chum, but comes to fall in love with her later on.
Gold Digger: Ethel Traverse, Barney's first love, whom he dumped after finding out she only wanted him for his father's money. This was the real cause of his leaving home to travel and settling in a tiny cottage in Ontario.
I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Cissy Gay refuses the proposal by her baby's father because she didn't want to trap him in a loveless marriage. Valancy also leaves Barney when she realises that she isn't dying, for the same reason.
The Makeover: Valancy, whose mother has been dressing her in thick layers of brown, gray and black, spends her first housekeeping wages from Roaring Abel on a short-sleeved, drop-waisted, collarless green dress and a lacy nightgown.
Make Up Is Evil: Everyone knows Valancy is dull so thoroughly that a rumor that she wore rouge is not enough to sink her reputation, which it would have done for any other girl.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Her mother sulks after a quarrel, which means she does not discover the letter that said she was dying. Valancy regards it as providential.
Men Are Better Than Women: When Valancy as a child is bullied by an older male cousin who later denied hurting her, the Stirling clan take his side because the family rule is that boys are trusted more than girls. Also, Valancy's mother was very disappointed that Valancy wasn't a boy.
Missing Mom: Barney's mother died when he was a baby, just like Valancy's father. Cissy's mother died young as well.
Mistaken for Dying: Valancy's doctor, panicked by the news of his son's car accident, mixes up Valancy's letter with one to a dying old woman. She accepts the diagnosis because consulting another doctor would require telling her family (because she can't drive and Dr. Trent is the only one in walking distance) which would result in so much fuss and bother that Valancy's plans for a happy last year would be entirely spoiled.
Oblivious to Love: Barney is oblivious to his true feelings towards Valancy, up to a point.
Ordered Apology: Valancy is forced to apologize to Olive when she had done nothing wrong.
Parental Marriage Veto: Family disapproval led to Olive giving up her second romance. (Not, whatever those outside the family say, the way the Bad Boy was losing interest in her.)
Placebo Effect: Dr Redfern's medicines work using this effect, according to Barney.
Precision F-Strike: In the last chapter, Barney follows Valancy to her mother's house and pleads with her to come back to him, telling her all about his childhood and Ethel Traverse. When Valancy refuses, thinking he's only pretending to care, he exclaims "Damn!", jumping to the conclusion that she's embarrassed by his tacky Nouveau Riche father. This, of all things, finally convinces Valancy he loves her - knowing her husband only loses his temper when he cares deeply about something. They make up and live happily ever after.
Pungeon Master: Uncle Benjamin, who often uses this trait to tease Valancy about her lack of a love life.
Benjamin: "What is the difference between a young girl and an old maid?"
Valancy: "One is happy and careless, the other is cappy and hairless. You have asked that riddle at least 50 times in my recollection, Uncle Ben. Why don't you hunt up some new riddles if riddle you must? It is such a fatal mistake to try to be funny when you don't succeed."
Pygmalion Snapback: Oddly enough, after finding out that she isn't dying after all, Valancy's newfound confidence completely evaporates. She leaves Barney, goes back to her mother, and takes a lot of convincing to realize that he wants her back. It makes sense when you realize how downtrodden she's been all her life, and that her confidence was really due to a belief that her actions wouldn't have any serious consequences. The point is for her to learn that they do, and to be confident anyway.
The Reveal: Quite a lot of them are piled up on top of each other in a space of a few chapters: Valancy isn't really dying; the doctor sent her the wrong letter. Barney is the son of a millionaire Dr Redfern (whose products have been mentioned several times before). Barney's backstory is also partially revealed. Oh, and he's also John Foster, the author of nature books Valancy adores. In an earlier chapter, Cissy Gay reveals the details of her tragedy.
Scenery Porn: What else would you expect from L.M. Montgomery? Except this time it's set in Muskoka, Ontario, instead of Prince Edward Island.
Secret Test of Character: All of Barney's seemingly random questions about money ("Would you be happier if you had a million dollars?") turn out to be his way of assuring himself that Valancy is not another Ethel Traverse and does, in fact, love him for himself.
Your Days Are Numbered: Interestingly played with Valancy, who actually finds the prospect much easier to bear than a long, dull life of spinsterdom and social pressure with her family. When the doctor reveals his mistake, as is traditional for this trope, Valancy is not happy to live out her life with Barney as one might expect. She's heartbroken, believing that Barney will accuse her of tricking him into marriage. It doesn't even occur to her that Barney might have grown to love her and want to keep her - not until the aforementioned Precision F Strike, at least.
Cissy is another example. She, too, is content to die - she feels she has nothing left to live for.
You Need to Get Laid: The Stirlings, not knowing about the heart disease, blame this trope for Valancy's rebellion: "Old maids are apt to fly off on a tangent like that. If she had been married when she should have been, none of this would have happened."