Blackhearts, Nicole Castroman
Published: February 9th 2016 by Simon Pulse
Hardcover, 384 pages
Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss
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.
How awesome is that cover? I knew going in that this was a pre-piracy Blackbeard story. Castroman is very clear when talking about the book that she’s laying the foundation for his story – not venturing to sea with him. So while the cover seems to promise drama on a pirate galleon, what we really get is drama in the drawing room that leads our future Blackbeard to his ship. Was there ever drama.
We have Anne, who is the illegitimate daughter of a British merchant and his Curacao born slave. When her parents both die Anne is sent to work in the home of another wealthy merchant. Anne crosses path with Edward “Teach” Drummond – the young and handsome son of the master of the house. Let’s get out of the way that “Teach” was the lamest nickname possibly ever. It felt to me like a complete anachronism and just grated at my nerves every time I read it.
While I like how Anne and Edward sparked at each other, I could not get past the inherent imbalance of power that was present in their relationship. Anne was fantastic and I loved that Castroman’s main character was the daughter of a slave trying to set her own path. But this was set in the late 1600’s and we’re talking about 1) a relationship between a servant and her boss’s son and 2) a multiracial relationship which was made way less than the big deal I would think it had to have been. I just couldn’t get past those two issues to want these two to be together. Then there was the rest of the background dramatics like unfaithful housemaids and Edward’s petty fiance. It seemed like it was too obvious where each plot point was going.
I was ready to stop this book, but I kept reading comments about the ending being completely brutal. So for some perverse reason I kept reading – and I loved the ending! I won’t spoil it – but really how can two people settle down in love and have the story lead to one of the most infamous pirates in history? The ending was brave and honestly bumped this up a star for me.
Thank you Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!