I’ll start off with a disclaimer about “Blackhearts:” It’s a pre-pirate novel, despite the cover. “Blackbeard” the infamous pirate, is definitely supposed to be a major character, but isn’t known as such during the novel.
With that out of the way, I’ll give you the low down on what the book is about. Edward “Teach” Drummond has just returned from a year granted by his father on the open sea, ready to reluctantly marry a girl he’s been betrothed to (Ms. Patience), and is (of course) stubborn, misogynist and charming.
His counterpart and love interest lies in the soul of Anne Barrett, a young woman with a white father and a mother from the West Indies, who is slowly stealing from the Drummond’s to make her escape to the place of her mother’s birth.
Herein lies the problem: this novel is rampant with unrealistic dialogue, relationships and every aspect of the “classes” you just have to take with a grain of salt. I dove into this book with really high expectations—and you may as well. The book is currently sitting at a 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, and holds highly favorable reviews.
Unfortunately, this book didn’t settle as well with me as it did everyone else. First of all, I am a sucker for a pirate book, and while I was disappointed that there was no piracy hidden between the pages, I am annoyed with the fact that this is a standalone novel. The ending, as truthful as it can get, really destroys the book as a whole when the reader realizes there is no sequel coming.
It seems to use Blackbeard’s story as a driving point, and Castroman takes a few liberties with plot points. Namely: Anne.
Another big problem I had with the book is that if you stripped away the characters, and their very few layers, you’d find something in the dialogue that is painfully reminiscent of “Fifty Shades of Grey:” The breathless wonder of being young and naïve, amped up to create a slow, drawn out and painful to digest love story. I felt no connection to the two lovers that were supposed to draw me in.
I have to give Castroman credit where credit is due, though: This isn’t “Fifty Shades” in the most important way: the writing is much more precise, clean and organized.
While the love story did not sweep me off my feet, I can see the appeal for others. If you enjoy a slow burn, this is for you.
Anne starts out as a likeable sixteen year old who has been thrown into a home she despises, and the sympathy for her situation sits heavy in the reader’s stomach at first. I will point out that it was very refreshing to have a female of color as the main character.
As the book progresses and Teach is introduced in more depth, I decided I liked Anne. Unfortunately, Ms. Patience is then introduced and the whole thing turns into a jumbled mix of debauchery, cheating maids and once again, unrealistic plot points. Patience is considered the harlot, and Anne the pure and “fiery” maid that steals Teach’s heart.
There were many moments where I had to rest the book down and ask myself a number of times when the trend of young women tearing at each other’s intelligence, appearance and personality became a trend. I understood on a basic level that if Patience and Anne were to get along it would be just another unrealistic plot hole, but there were scenes that played up that rivalry way too often, and most of the time, in Teach’s point of view. In some ways, in an effort to set the era it ended up almost glorifying the misogyny, racism and classicism of that time.
I know I said to take things with a grain of salt, but I didn’t say it would be easy.
Overall, it left much to be desired, and raised more questions than answered them. “Blackhearts” left me bored, rather than leaping for the next chapter. The characters weren’t all that likable and got on my nerves more often than not by the end.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t read another Castroman book, or if she actually did end up writing a sequel I wouldn’t buy it, but I certainly won’t be first in line for a copy.