Friday, February 12, 2016

ARC Review: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

Title: Blackhearts
Written by: Nicole Castroman
Published: February 9, 2016 by  (Simon & Schuster)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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 CuraƧao—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.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

You may know that it is pirate month here on My Thoughts Literally and this book was a big part of why that theme exists. And if you listened to Britt and my most recent podcast you know that this is among my most anticipated debuts of the first half of this year. So needless to say, I was really excited to pick this book up. And while it wasn't what I was expecting, it was a fantastic read full of great characters and an interesting historical setting.

What I liked about Blackhearts is that it's not your average story of swashbuckling pirates on epic high seas adventures. It's much more nuanced. I felt like it was a much more character driven story. At its heart this is an origin story about Blackbeard, but if you go deeper you realize that it is kind of also about what could have driven people to piracy. The book has multiple perspectives. We have Anna, the maid who feels trapped in her position and torn between two worlds, and Teach, the son of a wealthy merchant who spent a year at sea and desperately wants to go back. Throughout the book, each character has really interesting development as they navigate the waters (pun intended) of these worlds that they no longer belong in or just started belonging in. Their circumstances and the actions of lots of devious and odious secondary characters, place them in situations where they have to use their intelligence and resourcefulness to get out of whatever pickle they may have been in which added a lot of drama and character development. I was definitely invested in each of their story and I could see what motivated them to make the choices that they did make.

One of the things that I was nervous about going into this book was the romance. You probably know I'm not much of a fan of books that are just about romance and I had heard from some reviews that this was a focus for Blackhearts. And I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the romance. Maybe because it was more of a slowburn. Anna and Teach did not get together for awhile and even their attraction for one another was slow. So when it did happen, it felt deeper and easier to get behind. I really appreciated their connection to one another. They understand each other on a deeper level and I felt their mutual connection and I liked watching it develop throughout the book.

I think for me, this book reads more like historical fiction, which is one of my favorite genres and I find the 18th Century to be a really compelling time period. Castroman did a great job of setting up the period and what life was like for both the wealthy as well as those who worked for them. It had a bit of an upstairs/downstairs Downton Abbey vibe to it in that respect. But it also was a really good look at what society was like as a whole. The themes it addresses and the plot development is much more focused on the historical time period and the desire to step out of that role. Both Anna and Teach were trying to figure out where they belong and they have this great desire to be themselves while still satisfying others. I love that aspect of historical fiction and it was added some interesting drama. You also had the pirates angle. It wasn't a really big part of the book but the idea of privateers and pirates was there under the surface. I think in the next book there will be more about actual piracy.

And while it was an interesting read, the plot did feel a little basic at times. Now don't get me wrong, it did have some moments of action that were great and exciting, but in general it was much more character driven. However, there were also some interesting twists that I didn't see coming which was good. but on the whole I was left wanting more and not in the "I desperately need book 2 way," although I do want book two. I think for me I went into this book expecting it to be more of a traditional story about pirates and their high seas adventures. But here the plot was more of a coming-of age story set in a historical time period. That's not a bad thing. It was really entertaining, just not what I was expecting.

On the whole, Blackhearts was a good read. It loved spending time getting to know Anna and Teach and I am excited to see where their stories lead. The historical setting of the book was also a real highlight. It was a much different pirate story and that in and of itself makes it a great addition to this month.

I give Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman 8.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. This is definitely a book geared more towards fans of historical fiction and romance. If you are looking for an action-packed read this may not work for you but it was a thoroughly entertaining book.

Have you read Blackhearts? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. OOooh nice! Hearing some good things about this one and I am so glad I picked it up this week! And I am LOOOOOVING these Captain Jack Sparrow gifs! Though I can't see the second for some reason! Captain Jack is obviously my first favorite pirate! I think Colin Donahue has taken over the first place because swoon!!! Great review!!!

    1. Colin O'Donoghue!! I was trying to use spell check and it totally wrecked it! LOL!

    2. Glad you like my gifs. I feel like the pirates may be misleading but I had to do it. And I hope you do check it out and like it. It's much more historical fiction heavy but it's good.

  2. This was very much a characters book and not so much plot driven, but I loved it! And after that ending... I do want to see what's next for Anne and Teach!
    Great review Cassi!

    1. I want to see what happens next too! I'm hoping for some real piracy!

  3. I am 100% going to by this book just because of your Pirates of the Caribbean gifs. I have a small pirate obsession and Johnny Depp...ahh I love him!

    Great review!

    1. Uh... I hope the pirate gifs haven't given you the wrong impression. I mean there are pirates but it's more of a historical romance. You might be disappointed if you go in expecting pirate shenanigans. Although I do hope you like it. It's a good read.

  4. Great review! This one looks fabulous and I keep seeing so many great reviews for it. :D

    1. It's great. I would recommend it if you like historical fiction and romance.