Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson


Title: Blackmoore: A Proper Romance

Author: Julianne Donaldson

Rating: 4.5 Stars

All Kate has ever wanted is to visit Blackmoore, the stunning mansion by the sea where her best friends, Sylvia and Henry, spend their summers. Filled with secret passages, a quaint village nearby, and rumors of smugglers, Blackmoore is every bit the adventure that bookworm Kate desires. Thus, when she is finally invited to visit, she expects her trip to be everything she imagined - and more. Sadly, reality is rarely ever as wonderful and Kate, hoping Blackmoore will be an escape from the cage she finds herself trapped in at home, realizes that her cage has followed her, molding around her once again in Blackmoore, only with a slightly different shape. Proud, stubborn Kate who has refused to marry, planning to travel to India instead, soon finds herself - and her heart - at mercy in Blackmoore which will, undoubtedly, change her life.

With a title like Blackmoore: A Proper Romance, the love story in this novel is, naturally, of central focus. Kate and Henry have known each other since childhood and, as the years have gone by, their friendly affection has deepened considerably. With Henry set-up to marry the elegant and beautiful Juliet St. Claire, however, and with Kate's burden of family scandal, their match is anything but acceptable. Although I truly enjoyed this forbidden aspect to their romance arc - the constant obviousness of feeling on both sides but the tension built-up through constant denial - the true beauty in their relationship stems from their deep friendship.

What I love most about the romance between Kate and Henry is that it relies on a foundation of deep respect. Although Henry desires for Kate to stay close to him, at least to remain as a friend, he understands her ambitions of traveling, seeking a life of adventure, and escaping the gilded cage she has grown up in. Unlike most arrogant heroes, Henry never uses his money or power to coerce Kate into sacrificing her dreams for his. Donaldson manages to create an addicting, steamy romance in which the relationship dynamics are respectful of boundaries, understanding of happiness, and selfless in their love. It's a lovely arc to read, primarily because of these qualities. Just the friendship between these two will have you sighing blissfully, even when romance is far out of the picture, which in my eyes speaks far more to the strength of the bond these two characters share than anything else.

Nevertheless, while I admit candidly that the romantic tension in this novel reached out into my chest and twisted my heart rather painfully, what made this novel such a gem was the complex growth Kate experiences. As a woman in the 1900s, with societal expectations of marriage, it is difficult enough to forge a path veering off the typical course. As a woman with few prospects, a despicable upbringing, and a truly scandalous family, it is practically impossible. Kate resorts to extreme decisions to escape the cage she finds herself in as she desperately tries to convince her mother to let her travel to India with her spinster Aunt Charlotte. Kate's predicament truly hits home as we see her attempt to fulfill ridiculous bargains, despite the fact that she is well-educated, reasonable, and clever. As Kate struggles to find what she wants - from both herself and her future - the possibilities seem both endless and limiting. Kate undergoes many subtle epiphanies throughout her growth arc, from the realization that her expectations have never lived up to reality to the fact that much of what she thought was true is, in fact, incorrect. Yet, there is in inner layer to the cage that traps Kate and while she struggles to let loose the outer shells of society, family, and duty, the inner-most layer that she has self-imposed is the hardest to break out of.

While Blackmoore is an excellent novel, through-and-through, a reasonable amount of flaws stood out to me throughout the narrative. Most glaring is the fact that Kate's mother is incredibly vapid and cruel, a married woman who flirts with younger men constantly and encourages her daughters to secure marriages by compromising their virtues. Although I do not doubt the existence of such a mother, I found it difficult to believe that she was quite as evil as she was painted to be. If we had been offered a peek into her past or at least insight into her other personas, perhaps I would have felt more comfortable with her stark black-and-white portrayal but, alas, I was not. Additionally, I feel as if Donaldson ends this novel - almost - a little too soon. It is such a quick and convenient ending, avoiding the messiness of the situation Kate finds herself in. Moreover, it glosses over the immense growth arc Henry experiences, which I found to be fascinating. I would have loved for greater insight into the next chapter in Henry and Kate's life - just a glimpse, that's all.

Needless to say, I loved Blackmoore despite its flaws. Donaldson's prose paints a stunning gothic mansion as the setting of this romantic tale, alive with complex relationships, intriguing guests, and hidden secrets. It's no Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, but it isn't meant to be. No, Blackmoore is the type of novel for which a few uninterrupted hours need to be scheduled. It demands to be read in a single-sitting, eating up time with its page-count and stress with its tension levels. While Donaldson's debut still doesn't appeal to me - it seems far too tame in comparison to the dark quality of this piece - I will certainly be looking out for any and all of her future works. Any author for whom I'd ignore piles of homework for on a busy weekday night is automatically worth it.

13 comments:

  1. Both Henry and Kate sound like wonderful characters. I defintely want to meet them.

    Wonderful review, Keertana! <33

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  2. Blackmoore sounds like a perfect little read Keertana. I hardly have the time anymore to read books in one sitting, but the way you've described the appeal of this book I'm sure I'll be wanting to lock myself away with this gem. I think the relationship that you've described between Henry and Kate sounds absolutely exquisite. I'm also pleased that despite some flaws, how horrible is Kate's mum! You devoured this book right up! Gorgeous review!

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  3. I'm not really always interested in books that date to the past years in time. But I have to say that this book is definitely something interesting. Love your review, as I said before, I'm not the usual reader of these kinds of novels. But reading your review, I could see that it's a worthwhile read.

    Jules ofJules Bookshelf

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  4. Gothic novels always hold a special place in my heart, and the prose sounds as though it makes up for any minor flaws this novel has. That's what I'm always looking for! Lovely review, Keertana :)

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  5. I do like more colorful portrayals than the typical black/white secondary characters, still this author is one to watch. Hm... I do think I may have to try this one despite the flaws.

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  6. Oh this sounds delightful, even her mother and sadly there were quite a few woman like that in this time period since most marriages were arranged, and both men and woman romped about outside of the marriage bed. Remember that woman had no recourse but to marry, and marry well, since they could own no land, or even bank without a man overseeing everything. Totally adding this to my list!

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  7. Ah, how I love a good friendship-based romance! I truly love how deep this relationship seems to be because of the depth of the friendship that is the base for this romance. Also, it is SO nice to see how much respect both Henry and Kate have for one another, and how they respect the fact that both have their respective dreams. The dynamics here seem so powerful.

    However, I'm a little disappointed by the fact that the mother is so flat. It seems as if Kate is properly developed- with all her depth- but the mother appears to be severely lacking. I guess that was kind of a missed opportunity- getting some explanation and real personality to her would be able to give a perspective as to why Kate's family life is so messed up.

    This seems like a lovely read, Keertana! I'll be keeping an eye out for it. Gorgeous review as always! <3

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  8. This reminds me of one book by a little bit older German author, I remember that I used to love this kind of stories when I was younger.
    Great review, honey.

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  9. Very well written review and the story sounds very good! The need for adventure, the childhood love, the family issues... very interesting and relatable.

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  10. You just had me smiling and swooning about this book all over again! The tension between Henry and Kate was so strong for me because of their years of friendship. Loved this line from you: "What I love most about the romance between Kate and Henry is that it relies on a foundation of deep respect" YES! I love that Henry respects what Kate wants for her life, even if it pains him. And the romance is more about their strong and deepening emotional connection, and what their willing to sacrifice for the other. I love how the end of this story works out, in that Kate is able to experience the world that she wants, and it is Henry that sacrifices for her. It makes me so happy how much you connected with this story, K!

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  11. Lauren, thanks for recommending this one to me! I wouldn't have heard of this author if it wasn't for you, but I loved it, so thank you!(:

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  12. This cover is so gorgeous and I actually have a copy of this. It does sound lovely in some ways, but I worry I'd get frustrated with these two trying to stay apart. Excellent review, Keertana. :)

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