Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman (2016)
YA Fiction | Historical: Pirates | Romance
“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.”
pooled ink Review:
AHHHHHH SO MANY EMOTIONS CHURNING WITHIN MY SOUL.
WHERE DO I EVEN START?
I AM FILLED WITH ANGER AND LOVE AND DESPAIR AND YEARNING AND FRUSTRATION AND PEACE AND I JUST– I JUST– [deep breath]
When I closed this book upon reading the last page of its story I bolted from my chair and did a ridiculous dance to which my dog stared most concerned for my mental well-being. But I could not help but declare my love for this book! I need the sequel to happen. Please publishers, please listen to our cry! I mean honestly, only an idiot would turn down Castroman’s offer for a sequel.
WE NEED TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, HISTORY BE DAMNED.
Okay, alright, okay…let me just catch my breath here. One second. NO! NO TIME FOR BREATHING! Fine, then let’s just dive right in, shall we?
The whole concept is brilliant. Writing an origin story for the famed pirate, Blackbeard? Simply brilliant. And Castroman’s story is inspired. She was ever so adept at funneling Blackbeard’s legends, histories, and personalities into that of a young man. In Blackhearts he was a young man with a love for the sea, yes, but with no thoughts of piracy in his life. What exactly made Blackbeard turn to such a dark path? Well that is exactly what Castroman strives to find out and in exploring that question she has written for us a beautiful story.
This story of Edward “Teach” Drummond a.k.a. Blackbeard is pre-pirate and also land-locked in its telling. It begins just after he arrives back on shore and ends just as he sets foot to set sail. So if you’re looking for a swashbuckling sea-faring tale then your expectations will not be met, but even so you will not be disappointed. It’s not like Blackbeard was born a pirate, after all. Besides, just look at his personal flag! The name of his ship is even called Queen Anne’s Revenge! Castroman began weaving the pieces together and I am willing to play along. So reading this tale of how such a legendary villain came to be is one that I personally find far more intriguing. I have been awaiting this book’s release for weeks and weeks and months ever since I stumbled upon its existence and I can honestly say that I was not only satisfied but I was enamored.
The two protagonists are Teach and Anne.
Teach, as you already know, is the young man who will later become the pirate we grew up hearing about called Blackbeard. But before that fateful day Teach was a young boy, the son of a very wealthy merchant, engaged to a Baron’s daughter, and utterly stifled by his life in England. Clever, handsome, stubborn, and rough around the edges this rapscallion tries to balance finding his own path in life with pleasing his oppressive father.
Anne is a young maid working in the Drummond household. Daughter of a white merchant and a slave taken from the West Indies, Anne struggles with the shackles set upon her life with her only desire being to sail away on a ship and see the West Indies in search of a place where she may finally belong. Feisty, beautiful, hesitant, and kind this clever girl will gasp wide-eyed as her life veers off a cliff only to drop her into a future she could never have guessed for herself.
These two distinctive characters are inevitably drawn to one another as they find common ground with the desire to flee from their prisons and recognizing the passion that lies within their hearts. Does Anne simply want to be left alone while Teach is a pushy person unafraid to use intimidation to get what he wants? Okay yes, and I don’t normally like pushy characters but it fits so well with the persona of Blackbeard and Anne is so fierce that it works. It is a slow burning romance particularly as neither one wholly foresaw their shift from strangers, to friends, to something quite more.
This story, on Anne’s part, has a touch of a Cinderella ring to it but it is far better I assure you. Anne is constantly wary, highly intelligent, and completely aware of the unfairness in her life. Unafraid to bash someone in with a bucket or to stare straight ahead and stand her ground, Anne proves to be quite the admirable leading lady and more than a match for the fierce Edward Teach. While this story does respect its time period I quite love how they end up saving one another in their own way.
Ah yes, the time period.
This book reads beautifully. Its prose is not quite contemporary, not quite archaic, and yet it is both easy to understand and flows effortlessly from its pages with elegance and steel. The plot is paced and riddled with perfectly placed obstacles all of which work together to keep the reader utterly absorbed. This is indeed one of those stories that, at least for me, managed to stop time as I found myself whisked away into another world even forgetting meal times until my stomach raged loudly in utter protest.
After concluding this book I must say I cannot see how publishing could not approve a sequel! In fact it seems more than warranted. It is needed. Anne and Teach’s story is far from over and I am determined to see it through to the end. This book merely takes us to a halfway point and halfway, while beloved, is not enough for us.
Please, I highly recommend giving this book a try, a perusal, even just a lingering glance. You will not regret the decision to open this book and lose yourself in its pages. I could go on and on about this story (the banter, the romantic tension, the thrilling fights, the pathetic aristocracy, and more) but all that will do is succeed to make this post longer when I know I could never do this story justice. You shall just have to trust me and read it for yourself.
Blackhearts is more than a simple origin story for the legendary Blackbeard. It is a tale of romance, of challenge, of strength, and of freedom. Reading about villains is interesting but there is nothing quite as thrilling as reading a story entailing how they became such. Heart-stopping and mind-gripping, this pre-pirate novel will stake its claim on the land and turn its sails toward the seas.
Purchase here: Blackhearts
Similar recommended reads: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra, (not a book but I think perhaps even fans of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen or the BBC show “Downton Abbey” would love this book. It has the upstairs-downstairs tension but this book includes much more thrill and action: A twinge Downton Abbey at first but it’ll be Pirates of the Carribbean in the sequel!)
Meet Nicole Castroman!
At the age of 13, she went to Europe for the first time and it changed her life. She loves learning about different people, languages and cultures and speaks fluent German. She knows enough Spanish to get herself into trouble and can still read the Cyrillic alphabet from when she studied Russian.
She received her B.A. from Brigham Young University and has lived in Germany, Austria and two different places called Georgia. One is located on the Black Sea. The other is the state of Georgia where she now lives with her handsome husband and two beautiful children who continue to amaze her. -Goodreads
BLACKHEARTS Book Launch Party!!
February 20, 2016 at Little Shop of Stories (Decatur, GA)
Nicole was such a lovely lady and so much fun to chat with! Here are a few fun pictures from the event: click here