September 19, 2013

Caught In A Cage

Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson

Release Date: September 9, 2013
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Pages: 282 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon Goodreads

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 are on wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a Regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn how to follow her heart. It is Wuthering Heights meets Little Women with a delicious must-read twist.

Thoughts on Blackmoore
I read and enjoyed Julianne Donaldson's Edenbrooke last year, so I was excited to see Blackmoore releasing this fall. This book is published under Shadow Mountain's A Proper Romance line, which is essentially offers "clean romances." These books want to make you swoon, but they're going to leave more to the imagination than a traditional historical romance novel.

Blackmoore is the story of Kate Worthington, a girl who feels as though she's caught in a cage. She has dreams for her future - plans to travel to far off India and to escape the path that's been laid out for her - but she's not sure she can make them a reality. Before she goes, she wants to visit Blackmoore, the home of her childhood friend Henry Delafield. Finally, after years of waiting, she receives an invitation. But her mother, a scheming and vulgar woman, has other plans for Kate. She wants Kate to marry, but Kate is staunchly opposed to the idea. She has declared that she will never marry, and nothing can sway her from that decision.

So, Mrs. Worthington strikes a bargain with Kate. Kate can go to India, but only if she can secure and reject three marriage proposals while at Blackmoore. Kate accepts and believes she'll easily accomplish her goals. But she has no idea what her mother's reputation and her sister's past indiscretions may have cost her. Failure is not an option, but Kate soon realizes that she's fighting an uphill battle for her future happiness.

One of the things I loved in Blackmoore was the friendship between Kate and Henry. It was nice to read a story where a man and woman are friends and have a history together with shared secrets, cherished moments and stolen laughs. It added an intimacy to their relationship - just from the first page. I liked the tension between them, and I enjoyed the way they played off each other. You could tell they knew each other well just based on their interactions.

I also enjoyed the setting. Blackmoore was a perfection location for this dramatic story! Kate and Henry had a love for the place that made it come alive off the page, and I really enjoyed seeing Kate explore this manor that she'd long dreamed of visiting. She'd previously only "seen" Blackmoore through Henry's stories and a gift he'd given her, so it was nice to see her encounter the place she'd loved before she even went there.

So, in regards to the setting and characters, I was really pleased. Donaldson certainly manages to accomplish the premise of a clean romance. There is romantic tension and moments of delicious swoon in a book that still maintains its subtlety and mystique. In that respect, I was more than happy with this story!

What I did struggle with was central conflict in the book. There are two things that are the driving forces behind everything that takes place - Kate's bargain with her mother and Kate's insistence that she will never marry. Her reasons for the second decision don't become clear until very late in the book, and that was something I really struggled with while I was reading. It's a decision that is very abnormal for that time period, so I wanted to better understand what had happened to make Kate feel that way. Leaving that revelation until the end felt somewhat anti-climactic for me. Instead of connecting with Kate over her difficult family and troubled history, I felt like I was constantly questioning her reasoning and stubbornness. With a little more insight upfront, perhaps I would have understood and cheered for her unusual (for the time) beliefs and decisions.

I also feel as though the bargain with her mother was unrealistic and frustrating. I understand that it added an urgency to everything, but it felt false to me while I was reading. The mother seemed villainous and mercenary from the very beginning. While she's certainly meant to be a troubling character, I did have to roll my eyes at her over-the-top actions and declarations. In fact, both mothers were very one-dimensional in a way that seemed a little too convenient for me.

It was the way these two conflicts were resolved that left me feeling a little lackluster on the book as a whole. I certainly enjoyed it, and I think fans of Edenbrooke will just find more to love in this one. However, I felt as though I knew what was coming and the inevitability of it all tempered my love for this story. I thought it was fun and sweet, but it's certainly missing the depth of Austen or the Bront√ęs.

So Quotable
"I can never look at a bird without thinking of you," he said. "I wonder what you will do with your wings once you have found them. I wonder how far away they will take you. And I fear them, for my sake, at the same time that I hope for them, for yours."

6 comments:

  1. I've heard things about this one so it was nice for me to read a review from someone who liked it but didn't love it.

    What a great teaser.

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    1. Thanks Juju! That means a lot :) Sometimes I hate writing a "I just liked it" review when everyone else has LOVED it. That being said, I really did enjoy a lot of aspects of this book and will look forward to your thoughts if you read it!

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  2. Boo, this sounds like it had so much potential. I love your reviews because I feel we have similar Adult tastes and if this was just okay I will be skipping...to read Burial Rites soon :)

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    1. Thanks lady! I'm definitely in the minority on this one - most people LOVED it. Can't wait for you to read Burial Rites! That book is AMAZING!

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  3. I think it's funny that we really agree about this one, especially this book's weaknesses. But still I loved it so much. I think it's because I got really wrapped up in the tension and romance between Kate and Henry, that I really didn't care about the weak set up with the bet (although I agree that on a practical level it made no sense). The way the story is told is also confusing as you say, and waiting for the big secret of why Kate doesn't want to marry got a little tedious. But I loved the setting as you said, and this book made me happy overall :). I'm sorry you didn't connect with it as much. I actually really liked the end, especially that Kate went off to India and Henry followed her there. It's funny that you thought it was predictable - I thought it actually didn't always feel inevitable, and I love that Kate was able to explore and be who she wanted, without automatically giving into Henry. I love that he respected that about her. But I think 99% of romances are predictable - at least the end. Which is why I read them, honestly. But I digress. Anyway, sorry this didn't work so much for you. It worked better for me than Edenbrooke, because I purposefully didn't think about comparing it to classics. We talked about this as well! Thoughtfully, articulated review Hannah!

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    1. Yeah, I find it interesting that we both pointed out the same weaknesses. I think I may have enjoyed Edenbrooke more, so I was somewhat thinking of that one while reading this one. I loved the romantic tension, especially in the proposal scenes but I think my enjoyment of it was dulled by being frustrated by Kate's absolute refusal to marry. I didn't think her going to India was predictable, but I did sort of assume they'd find a way to work out her dislike for marriage and the two psycho mothers to make it so they could marry. In that way, it was predictable for me in that the obstacles never felt like true obstacles. And I agree - most romance are predictable at their core. I think I just wanted to feel like it wasn't a total given that everything would work out smoothly.

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