by: Julianne Donaldson
this review was written by my good friend Julie Pullman, the best English teacher on the planet.
Hello! I'd like to thank Emily for allowing me review Julianne Donaldson's newest book, Blackmoore. I'm a high school English teacher and I'm always recommending books to students to keep them reading. But last year, a student passed me Donaldson's first book, Edenbrooke, and I couldn't put it down. Emily must have known, because she sent Blackmoore my way.
First, a confession for you all: I had a serious regency romance phase back in the day (and I still can't turn down a good one). I am definitely predisposed to like this type of book, but this means I also go in with high expectations. I've read enough that the tropes of the genre annoy me pretty easily. Thankfully, Blackmoore avoided the pitfalls of the typical romance and fulfilled *almost all of my reader's desires.
Summary (from Goodreads):
Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead--if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate's meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured--and rejected-- three marriage proposals.
Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?
Kate is an interesting female lead. She has some strong opinions of her own and a backstory that leads her to make a few decisions that readers might not understand at first. Donaldson weaves the backstory in with the main plot in ever increasing chunks as the story moves its way to the conclusion and it works to build interest and pace as we near the end. While Kate is a different type of personality than I am and makes some choices that could have annoyed me as a reader, Donaldson has done such a solid job of making her a complete and realistic character that I understood Kate's motivations. Her emotions and choices stay true to the type of girl she is and lend credibility to her character. And call it some early pregnancy hormones, but I did find myself tearing up quite a bit at some of the heartache poor * endures throughout the story. (My husband may or may not have come upon me sniffling over a scene in the book, taken one look at me, and promptly retreated…)
We can't discuss a romance without discussing the male lead. Henry. Oh, Henry. Besides being everything that is good and sweet and, let's face it, rather dreamy, Henry is also a very well-developed character. All of his actions lend themselves perfectly to creating exactly the sort of lead I wanted in a book like this. He came off as a realistic, sincere, and genuine young man who was sometimes confused and frustrated by Kate but supported her nonetheless.
The rest of the cast of characters, while minor in their influence in the story, were mostly believable. The mothers were a little overdone and the bargain Kate and her mom made was a bit forced, but some of the other minor characters ended up surprising me in good ways.
One of the things that Julianne Donaldson does so well is to develop the relationships between her characters. Every moment that Kate and Henry were together, every conversation they had, was so satisfying and fulfilling. Their emotions and the way they interacted felt true to course and realistic; they didn't follow a shallow path of a developing relationship that you often find in run-of-the-mill romances.
I do have two complaints with the book, and the first is very minor: once the characters arrive at Blackmoore, the whole story happens in a very short span of time. This means that there are not many dull moments in the pacing, but looking back on the reading, it seems rather quick for so many developments in the characters and plot. Again, this is just a minor issue and doesn't affect a reader's enjoyment of the story much in the moment.
My second complaint is a bit more substantial: the ending. Don't get me wrong, I loved the actual ending itself. It was different than I expected and not a typical 'suddenly everything is good again' ending. What left me feeling a little lacking is HOW the ending came about. The last major scene between Henry and Kate is just too short. Their other scenes were so strong and developed and satisfying, that in comparison, the last scene wasn't as deeply felt as I expected it to be. To be honest, I felt a little cheated. However, the overall impact of the book left me very happy.
Despite those small hiccups, both of Donaldson's books satisfy the romantic in me and I expect they'll do the same for many of you. If you generally like this type of story, pick up a copy and you really won't regret it. If you've not tried anything like this, these would be a good place to start to get a feel for the genre. I'm already passing around my copies to all of the women I know who might possibly like it.