*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*
Blackmoore has to be most romantic book I read in a long, long time, and I'm even happier that I found this author, because now, I'll unhesitatingly read anything she writes!
This book was captivating from page one; once I started, I couldn't put it down. It tells the story of Katherine Worthington, known as Kitty (or Kate, as she wants to be called) a seventeen-year-old girl living with her parents and siblings, and spending her time with her two best friends and neighbors, Henry and Sylvia Delafield, whose family owns a large seaside state by the name of Blackmoore, a place Kate wants to see more than anything in the world, given her natural curiosity and her penchant for stories and mysteries.
I loved Katherine; she's adorable, curious, and adventurous, and she doesn't want to settle for the life that has been already mapped out for her (and for most of the girls in her time). She feels caged, locked up, and is tired of living in the shadow of her sister Eleanor's scandal and her mother's shamelessness. Her house is not the home she needs, she can't possibly find the understanding and acceptance she yearns for there. Her father only cares for himself, and doesn't pay attention to what she, her sisters or her mother do. Her mother is an impertinent woman who doesn't care about her own reputation or her daughters', and she has no qualms about flirting with every man in the room, and inducing her daughters to use dishonorable methods to ensnare a husband (without any care for their reputations, or the family name); she's unhappy and dissatisfied with her marriage, and she doesn't deprive herself of amusements and the admiration of the opposite sex. She's still a teenager, only cares for herself, and even vies with the other young women for all the things she shouldn't, as if she were their equal in beauty and charms, and caring very little for the fact that she's married.
But Katherine is different. She knows there's more to life than just being someone's wife; that the world is bigger than their home in Lancashire and it is waiting for her, she just wants to spread her wings and fly away. And I love her for that. She doesn't settle for what's expected from her as a woman, she doesn't care for convention. She wants to do what makes her happy, to fulfill her dreams, knowing that what she should do is not what will bring her joy, and that her family is not worthy of the sacrifices they demand from her. And the only person who can truly see her heart, understand her yearnings, and see what would make her happy, is her best friend, Henry Delafield.
The love story was simply... beautiful, heart-wrenching at times. It almost moved me to tears, and I couldn't stop reading, because with every word, I could feel how much Kate and Henry were kindred spirits, in despite of the many obstacles they encountered in their path, like her decision to never marry, his impending engagement with Juliet St. Claire, and his mother's contempt towards her entire family; simply, there was no other possible choice. Nothing nor nobody would fulfill them the way each other could. And something I really loved in their tale, is that they knew each other. They had their happy moments, but also, they witnessed each other's greatest vulnerability. In their weakest, saddest moments of their lives, they were there, and could know each other, simply, as they were, both virtues and flaws. And that was something not even the most stubborn of decisions, nor social and family obligations could change.
Henry knows Kate feels caged, and wants to set her free. She's his friend, his confidant, and couldn't love anyone the way he loves her. And the worst part is that she loves him too, but she knows what loving her will cost him. She needs to secure herself the three marriage proposals she needs to refuse to be rid of her mother and finally be able to fulfill the dream of her life and travel to India with her aunt Charlotte, and she asks Henry to be the one who proposes three times, so she can say no and be free. Little does she know that with every rejection, his heart breaks, and he sees even further their chance of happiness together.
Henry and Kate's scenes in the tower of the ruined abbey are priceless. I read them with my emotions afloat, and sometimes biting back tears. Because there was nothing else there but raw honesty, even when she couldn't always tell him the truth. Up there, they were only Henry and Kate. Purely, them. There was no one to please, no need of false smiles and small talk. They could be, simply, themselves, without pretending. And you see where their friendship took them, realizing how deep it is, how all the masks just fall down and trying to conceal things is utterly useless. They know and love each other the way nobody else could, with and in despite of their imperfections.
Another reason why I loved Kate is because of her stubborness, and determination. She's no meek, mild girl, but a strong young woman who realizes that no one but her must determine her destiny, and that she needs to take the reins of her own life, to be rid of her mother and sister's scandalous behaviour and prove she's different. That sort of decision is something not many women of her time could make, and I admire that Kate was strong enough as to say "I am the owner of my own life; me, and only me"; she understood that no one but herself would open the cage she was in, and, at the end, she did what she must to stay true to herself.
I hate that she had to break Henry's heart to do it, however, but I loved that still, he didn't give up on her. She could finally travel to India, but even so, nothing could fill the void that rejecting him left in her heart. As I said before, it was them, and only them. Nothing would ever be enough if they weren't together. No one could ever know them as completely as each other did, with their strenghts, weaknesses and secrets. They needed each other, and no distance was enough for them to ignore it, and to forget how much they loved each other.
In short, this book is amazing, and now Julianne Donaldson is definitely among my favorite authors! Totally recommended!