Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman
Arrrrrrrrr, me hearties! Are ye ready for a swashbucklin’ tale of scoundrels sailing upon the raging seas? A tale of how the fiercest pirate to ‘ave ever lived became who he was?
Then this probably isn’t it.
But are you so in love with pirates that a book about a pirate before he was a pirate, set entirely in England and never on a ship, that’s primarily a love story is still right up your alley, especially if it promises that swashbuckling goodness in book 2?
Then you’ve come to the right place. Welcome aboard!
Full disclosure: I have spent my entire life obsessed with pirates. Obsessed not as in, Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-are-my-favourite-movies (though they are); but as in, my-favourite-shirt-as-a-child-was-striped-red-and-black-because-it-looked-like-those-tacky-pirate-Halloween-costumes. As in, I-annually-attend-a-summer-pirate-festival-where-I-sport-a-$60-custom-pirate-hat. As in, I-bought-the-textbook-for-a-university-class-that-I-couldn’t-even-take-just-because-it-was-about-pirates.
So yeah, I love pirates. I was itching to get my hands on Blackhearts–piracy is such an underrated theme in YA books, man; it’s sad–thinking I was getting a suspenseful tale on the high seas. I mean, it’s Blackbeard for crying out loud–the very name invokes pillage and plunder! DO NOT EXPECT THIS, YOU WILL BE DISAPPOINTED. Blackhearts is about Blackbeard before he was Blackbeard. It follows Edward “Teach” Drummond (and Anne, his lady love) in his struggle against the confines of his father’s house while he longs for the freedom of the open waters. Anne has similar desires, to escape her unfortunate position on a ship to the West Indies and spends the novel plotting just how to do that. Obviously, the two fall in love–and the story gets very heavily romantic–but it still (at least for Teach) is all about the call of the sea, of a ship and a crew and freedom. That’s what makes it a good pirate book, even though no one really sets foot on a ship: the feeling of what it means to be a pirate is still there.
Shall we begin? The book opens in Anne’s POV, an orphaned sixteen-year-old illegitimate child of a merchant and his West Indian slave (her dark skin is, in seventeenth-century London, a marker of inferiority or impurity) who works as a maid in another wealthy merchant house. Anne is cautious but also very determined and when the two are at odds, determination usually wins out. She’s got a good head on her shoulders and a healthy dose of realism–she understands how their world works and while she’ll fight it when she can, she also acknowledges what that means for her as a slave’s daughter, an orphan, and a girl. Buuuuut her late father raised her (secretly) as though despite all of this she still had monumental worth so when opportunity and professionalism permits (in Teach’s case, even when they don’t!) she’s a zero-bullshit, knee-you-in-the-groin, sarcastic but lovely little shit. It’s great.
Edward “Teach” Drummond is a bit of an alpha-male so he takes some getting used to, especially where Anne is concerned. Of the two, I think Teach grows the most. He starts out arrogant and proud, a bit of a playboy with little respect for his social ‘inferiors.’ He is also basically entirely controlled by his obnoxious father which hinders Teach’s dream to take to the sea. But throughout the novel he gets nicer, more reasonable, less high-and-mighty; he starts standing up for himself and pushing back more. I’m struggling a bit to see him as the notoriously fierce and, well, cruel (if legend is true) pirate Blackbeard but as a normal guy he’s pretty cool!
Straight up though, can we please stop it with these possessive, alpha-male love interests? I’m not judging if any of you lovely people like that kind of thing–I can see its appeal!–but I am really not at all a fan of a guy who bosses a girl around…well, tries to. I like Teach and I like Anne but I swear if it weren’t that Anne sends his shit flying back to him at 100mph every. single. time. I’d have flown to Curaçao and pitched the book into their precious Caribbean Sea. Which would have SUCKED because it’s actually really good otherwise and also wet books make me cry in agony.
Anyway, like I said there is no pirate action in here. Nada. Zilch. The story mostly in Blackhearts is about Anne and Teach getting together and figuring out how to abandon ship in London and trade it in for, like, a legitimate ship to the West Indies. Please please please give it a chance anyway–it’s quite the interesting read and the ending sets it up for a boatload of pirate-y goodness (and badness) in the sequel!
Click here for the book synopsis on goodreads!