108. Julianne Donaldson, Blackmoore
I loved Donaldson's debut novel, Edenbrooke, so I was thrilled when my sister loaned me her copy of Donaldson's newest book. And while I'll admit that I like Edenbrooke better, Blackmoore kept me entertained for the last couple of days--and it fulfilled really the only requirement I have for a good romance novel: at some point, my heart has to hurt. And Blackmoore did that for me.
The story opens with Kate Worthington fretting about an upcoming trip to Blackmoore, the estate caught between the sea and the moors that will someday belong to her childhood friend Henry. She's dreamed about this trip almost her whole life, but now, through her mother's manipulativeness, she may be denied this visit. Desperate to go--and more, to go to India with a maiden aunt after the trip is over--Kate makes a bargain with her mother: she will receive (and reject) three proposals of marriage, or else she will do whatever her mother commands her. Granted, this agreement seems sort of silly (Kate herself realizes quickly how foolish it is), but if you can suspend your disbelief of that for a while, it helps engineer some of the most interesting tension of the novel.
The novel is a little slow getting going, as we only gradually realize why Kate is so set against marriage through a series of flashbacks in the middle of the story. This novel is darker than Edenbrooke, as Kate's family is particularly wretched. Maybe the setting lends itself to that impression too, as the moors encourage Kate to a wildness she didn't realize she had.
I liked the central tension between Kate and the main love interest (I won't name names, though it's pretty clear early on who this will be)--but I loved the setting. And, as an amateur birder myself, I loved the recurring bird motif throughout the book. I didn't love the ending, which seemed to resolve pretty quickly (particularly in comparison with how slowly the early part of the book unfolded), but the romance itself was satisfying to me.