Book Review: Blackhearts
By: Nicole Castroman
Published By: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: February 9, 2016
Page Count: 384
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fiction
Blackbeard is one of those historical figures that has always intrigued me. I've never stopped to consider what he was like as a young man before he took up the pirate life, but when I saw this novel I jumped at the chance to read it early. After doing a little research of my own, I quickly discovered that much of Blackbeard's early life is a mystery. I found that the story woven by Nicole Castroman seemed plausible and fitting for the man who haunted the seas.
The story is told by multiple narrators - Edward "Teach" Drummond and Anne Barrett. These two come from vastly different worlds, but find themselves thrown together by circumstance. The novel begins with Anne's perspective as she is working as maid in the home of Edward's father. Anne finds herself on the end of discrimination - not only because of her social status but also because of her mixed race - on a daily basis. I cringed at the way Anne was treated by people in town and those in the home she worked for due to her job as a maid. I know servants did not have the best lives in most cases, but reading about it first hand made me sad and more than a little angry. To make matters worse, Anne is the daughter of a fairly wealthy merchant who wanted her to be cared for, but her half brother, a legitimate child of the shipping magnate, pawns her off as nothing more than hired help. Anne struggles to reconcile the educated merchants daughter with her current life as a maid. She is strong, impetuous, and highly opinionated. She longs to leave behind her life of drudgery and seek her mother's family in the West Indies.
Anne finds herself face to face with Edward on a shopping excursion and the two do not get off on the right foot. The beginning of their acquaintance is full of prejudice and misunderstanding, but the two will find they have more in common than they could have ever imagined. Their friendship crosses the boundaries of socioeconomic status and race in a time when these barriers were meant to be iron clad.
Edward's segment of the story revolves around his desire to return to the sea and avoid moving forward with his engagement to Miss Patience, the spoiled and tempestuous daughter of English nobility. Edward's father is a bit of a social climber and he can't wait for his "new" money to marry in with the aristocracy. The idea of a title in the family makes Mr. Drummond act without regard to his son's feelings on most occasions. I found this to also be sad as it was clear that Edward and Patience had nothing in common and would make a terrible married couple. I also understood Edward's need to follow his dreams rather than the path his father had decided.
Edward's frustrations with his future and Anne's need to escape bring the two together and a strong bond forms. Yes, there is romance, but it's not the driving force in the narrative and it developed at a realistic pace - especially given the time period.
The last few chapters were riveting, but somewhat dissatisfying. I am not okay with leaving Anne and Edward in such a state of limbo. I can only hope there will be another novel as the story feels unfinished.
Blackhearts is a compelling historical fiction that will sweep you back to the streets of late 1600's England on the cusp of the rise of one of the most famous pirates in history. It's well worth a read if Blackbeard fascinates you and you'd like to get a glimpse of who he might have been before becoming infamous. I'd like to think he was driven by something like the events at the end of this novel.
One Last Gripe: The ending left me wanting, but another issue I had was there is very little "pirating". That's not bad necessarily - it just wasn't what I was expecting when I started reading this one. I hope there are more novels and we get the full Blackbeard pirate experience.
Favorite Thing About This Book: Anne's situation fascinated me. She had to fight so much adversity for someone so young.
First Sentence: After Anne's father died, her mother often said that sorrow was the only sun that rose for them.
Favorite Character: Anne
Least Favorite Character: Patience
Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.
Edward "Teach" Drummond, son of one of Bristol's richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There's just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.
Following her parents' deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she's stuck in England?
From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.