Kate Worthington is trying to prove to the world that she's not like her flirtatious mother and sister. She even goes as far as vowing she's never going to marry. In stead, she has other dreams: visiting India with her spinster aunt. Her mother promises to let her go when she has received and declined three proposals of marriage. A visit to Blackmoore, the family mansion of her childhood friend Henry Delafield seems like the perfect opportunity to secure these proposals. But as she reconnects with her old friend, Kate has to face all the things which which she kept secret over the years and also face that there is one wish even more dear to her than a trip to India.
Last year, I read many raving reviews around the 'blogosphere' of Julianne Donaldson's first book, Edenbrooke. Especially by fans -like me- of Jane Austen and the Regency period. I was thus really glad when I saw the book on NetGalley and was rewarded a copy!
First things first, Julianne Donaldson sure has a way with words! The prose of this book is absolutely beautiful, it's rich and evocative, transporting you to Blackmoore, the Delafield's ancestral home in between the ocean and the moors. The book is filled with beautiful sentences, almost little poems in themselves: 'It was wild and dark and grand and tall and fierce and haunting all at once. And it thrilled me to the core. It thrilled me and it frightened me, for it whipped at my carefully closeted heart, much as the wind had whipped at my hair and skirts and sent my bonnet tumbling.' I also love how certain objects or motifs are used throughout the story as symbols of characters and their development.
The story may sound a little contrived if you read the synopsis, but it's worked out very well and believable. Blackmoore's subtitle of sorts is 'A proper romance' and I think this has a dual meaning. Not only is it proper as in clean, it's also properly a romance; a book in which the romantic storyline takes absolute center stage. I've not read many historical books like this, most of the novels I read taking place in a historical setting have other main storylines beside the romance. But I loved it, Blackmoore is absolutely a book which makes you swoon, smile happily and maybe even wipe away a stray tear!
Blackmoore takes place in the Regency era and is therefore a joy to read for fans of Jane Austen's works and fans of the manners and morals of the time period. Some authors writing Regency fiction will try to imitate Jane Austen's voice, but for Julianne Donaldson, this is not the case. She very much has her own writing style, though some themes of Blackmoore are similar to Jane Austen's works. Then again, themes of inheritance, marrying well and unequal love cannot be claimed by Austen alone!
Last, but not least, the characters of Blackmoore. Henry is an amazing hero, now firmly rooted in my Top Ten of favourite heroes from historical fiction. He's intelligent, always kind and understanding and a true romantic at heart! Kate takes a bit of warming up to, reminding me at the beginning of the novel of Northanger Abbey's Catherine a bit with her silly and sometimes selfish ways. But as her past and her secrets are slowly unfolding as the story progresses, you cannot help but feel and root for her. Kate's mother at first seems to be inspired by Pride and Prejudice's Mrs. Bennet, but turns out to be much worse! Her scene's will make you cringe no doubt. Sylvia, Henry's sister and Eleanor, the sister of Kate, were interesting characters, but a bit underused. I would've liked to have known more about them.
I would strongly recommend Blackmoore to any fans of Jane Austen or people looking for a clean historical romance.
I received an ebook version of this book from NetGalley and the publisher Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review.