At eighteen, Kate Worthington knows she should be getting serious about marriage, but her restless heart won’t let her settle down. To escape her mother’s meddlesome influence, she dreams of traveling with her spinster aunt to exotic India. But when the opportunity arises, Kate finds herself making a bargain with her mother: she will be allowed to go to India if she has secured and rejected three marriage proposals while spending a season at Blackmoore, the Delafield family’s estate. Enlisting the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield, Kate sets out to collect her proposals so she can be on her way. But Henry’s decision to help threatens to destroy both of their dreams in ways they could never imagine.
The first half of Blackmoore drew me in like a great mystery set on the moors along the lines of novels by Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, or the Bronte sisters. The intrigue of searching for a secret passageway, the dark of night with only the flicker of a candle to light Kate’s way, and the constant fear of being caught, either by the man she secretly loves—Henry—or perhaps a ghost that lingers in the abandoned wing of the estate was delicious and I could hardly read fast enough to experience more. Unfortunately, this promise was never fulfilled. Instead, Henry gives her the clue, and they go to the secret spot, but then nothing really happens, losing the momentum of the perfect build up.
Perhaps the main reason the novel did not completely live up to its potential was the over abundance of flashbacks, with entire chapters dedicated to rehashing earlier life events that might have been sufficiently told with a detail or two within the story. The lack of chronology became confusing and the constant darting into Kate’s memory was annoying at best. Another hundred pages of story and character development, without the use of flashbacks, would have enriched Blackmoore and brought not only the characters, but the setting itself more to life.
Although the novel is set in Northern England in 1820, and marketed as Regency, not enough tropes of the genre are present to justify the classification. The tension was well crafted at the first proposal, but there needed to be more play with the other potential suitors, especially the young gentleman who seems to be attracted to her. Kate’s rival for Henry's affection is too perfect, and, despite the set-up, there simply is not enough tension or interaction between Henry's mother and Kate. Sylvia was completely lost from the story, although we are supposed to believe she and Kate are close friends.
But, with all of that said, I did enjoy reading Blackmoore. Perhaps I am forgiving; perhaps fell in love with the characters. The thematic use of the bird songs throughout allowed me to grow attached to Kate and Henry, as well as hope for the best outcome for Henry’s grandfather. I longed to learn more from Herr Spohr, and hoped that all would work out for young Mr, Brandon in the end. I wanted to see Kate’s mother get what she deserved, and to meet Kate’s aunt who would take her to India. I would have loved a little more than what I got, even though I also wanted less of the back story as it was provided.
I will continue to recommend Blackmoore to readers. There were enough positives to outweigh what I deemed as negatives, and it’s likely the average reader won’t care about those things anyway. The characters are entertaining, even the ones who cause Kate’s conflicts, and this novel, like Edenbrooke before it, prove that Julianne Donaldson delivers when to comes to a satisfying, clean romance.