In 2012 Julianne Donaldson published her debut novel, the highly successful Regency romance Edenbrooke. Now in 2013, she has written her second Regency novel, Blackmoore, which is set on the moors and windswept cliffs of England, in the halls of an old manor, filled with binding secrets, forgotten memories, and hidden love.
At fifteen, Kitty Worthington decided to change her name and identity to Kate Worthington. From happy child to guarded young woman, she turned her back on ever marrying, feeling as if she was a bird trapped in a cage—a cage filled with her mother’s indiscretions and schemes, and the fear that in letting herself feel and love, she would become just like all Worthington women—cold and heartless, being used and using others in turn.
Now at seventeen, Kate has finally been invited to Blackmoore, the symbol of her freedom and the manor house she has always longed to see. It is the second home of her best friends since childhood, Henry and Sylvia Delafield, who have visited it every summer, leaving her behind to imagine a place as wild as it is beautiful. But her dreams of Blackmoore will be destroyed unless she strikes a devil’s bargain with her manipulative mother. If Kate can manage to receive and reject three proposals during her visit, she can finally leave her broken home and make her own choices. If not, she must stay and do whatever her mother desires—including marrying a man she does not love. While at Blackmoore, Kate must discover the secrets in her heart, the worth of her dreams, and the strength to open her own cage and soar.
Woodlark. Blackbird. Swallow. Mistle Thrush.
Birds are a main theme in Blackmoore. Kate is a lover of birds, and, as seen in the synopsis above, likens herself to one—in her hope to escape her cage and fly. I loved how the use of different birdcalls and types of birds has different meanings for her, and how those are all tied into different memories from her past. Her feelings of birds are even in the first lines of chapter one:
A woodlark sings of heartache. A swallow calls in the two-tone rhythm of a race. And a blackbird’s song is the whistle of homecoming.
Something that happens again and again in Blackmoore are the flashback chapters. As Blackmoore continued I discovered so much more about Kate, Sylvia, and Henry–all the things that were hidden beneath the surface. The flashbacks increase as the book goes on, so that by the end the depth of the problems Kate struggles with and her current relationships are finally understood. I’m already planning on rereading this soon, because in order to really understand all of the characters and everything that motivated their present choices, I need to fit it in with what I now know about their pasts. At turns thoughtful, humorous, romantic, melancholy, and unpredictable, Blackmoore is a delight to read.
The other special part of this book was the romance. It’s complete with the warmth of friendship (the laughter and squabbles of true friends) and the heart pounding feelings of attraction and love.
He stroked my cheek with the back of his fingers, lightly, a graze, a burning left it in its path before his hand fell off the edge of my jaw.
“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 I hope for them, for yours.”
I drew in a breath, feeling the air shudder into my lungs but could not find any words to speak. He had never touched me like this. He had never looked at me like this. He had never spoken to me like this. (Page 189)
As with Edenbrooke, Julianne Donaldson has written absolutely beautiful prose. Not just in her skill with revealing Kate’s back story throughout the novel, as well as the creation of her unique characters, but in her dialogue and descriptions. Each time I flip through Blackmoore’s pages I notice more and more—hidden meanings behind words, glances, and touches of the hand.
He flinched, his head jerking to the side to look at me, and his arrow fell off his bow. He lowered the bow and gave a piercing look, his grey eyes glinting like steel. Then he raised it again and leveled his gaze at the target. “Only your friend?” He narrowed his eyes at the target, his pressed lips causing a line to crease in his cheek. “I think I deserve a better title than that.”
“Like what?” I looked at him askance.
“Oh, I don’t know.” He released his arrow. Another solid hit, right on target. “Perhaps ‘The Giver of My Heart’s Desire’?”
I took a dozen steps toward the house before I stopped and turned around. “Henry.” He had walked back to our shooting place but turned to look at me.
“You are a good friend.”
He shook his head, nocking an arrow and lifting the bow. “Try again, Kate. You are ‘The Giver…’” He pulled back on the string, then shot a look at me, as if waiting for me to continue.
I laughed. “Never. I shall never call you that.” His grin flashed, and he turned back to send his arrow flying straight and true, finding easily the center of the target. He never did miss. (Pages 23 and 27)
Blackmoore is a wonderful addition to your Regency bookshelf, not just as a stand-alone romance, but as yet another skillfully and beautifully written volume by Julianne Donaldson.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Blackmoore: A Proper Romance, by Julianne Donaldson
Shadow Mountain (2013)
Trade paperback (320) pages
Cover image courtesy Shadow Mountain © 2013; text Katie Patchell © 2013, Austenprose.com