Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Book Review: Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson (Whitney Finalist 2013)

Title: Blackmoore
Author: Julianne Donaldson
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Digital Copy
This book would be rated: PG

Most young women are, from time to time, embarrassed by their families. But Kate Worthington is mortified by the behavior of hers. Her sister eloped last year. Her mother carries on scandalous flirtations with men who are not her husband. And everyone in England seems to know about it, and hold it against Kate. As a result, Kate has decided that she will never marry-- instead she will go to India with an aunt, but first, she wants to visit Blackmoore, the home of her childhood friend Henry. Kate's mother agrees that her daughter can go to India on one condition-- that she secure three marriage proposals during her time at Blackmoore. So Kate sets out to accomplish that goal.

A few weeks ago my daughter Maren, who is seven, asked me a question: "Mom, why is it that Frozen is set in the past, and everyone wears dresses and rides horses, but everyone acts and talks like they're from our time?" Of course, Maren is one perceptive and precocious girl, and she got me thinking. I was reading Blackmoore at the time, and the "problem" she presented with Frozen is one that seems to plague historical romances, and especially seems present in Blackmoore. I think historical novels are tricky, because they put readers back into a certain time and place, with certain social conventions, and manners of speech. Sometimes an author will, for example, work so hard at accurately portraying Renaissance dialect that it gets in the way of the story. We have a problem with some of the stories in the bible because men and women don't follow the same roles they did back then, and it's also a challenge for authors not to plop a modern heroine into a historical novel. Unfortunately, that's what I think that's what Donaldson does in Blackmoore. Kate (which seems like such a modern version of Katherine) wants what modern girls want-- freedom to live and travel and experience life freely. And while I can understand that she comes to this approach both from the bad examples of her mother and sister and some kind of altruistic sense of love for Henry, it's interesting to me that she doesn't seem to have a sense of self-preservation beyond the trip to India. This was an intriguing novel that kept my attention, but sometimes that attention was drawn to the historical v. modern problems that the story presents.

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