Tuesday, September 17, 2013

BLOG TOUR: Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson



ABOUT THE BOOK

Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals.

Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a Regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn how to follow her heart. It is Wuthering Heights meets Little Women with a delicious must-read twist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julianne Donaldson grew up as the daughter of a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. She learned how to ski in the Italian Alps, visited East Berlin before the wall came down, and spent three years living next to a 500-year-old castle. After earning a degree in English, she turned her attention to writing. She writes historical romance when she is not busy with her four young children and husband. Edenbrooke is her first novel.

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REVIEW

I love Julianne Donaldson's books! They are some of my favorite books ever. Even though there is only two so far, I hope there will be many more.  I truly loved this one just as I did Edenbrooke.  This one though touched my heart in unique ways.  Maybe it's because I really felt for Kate and her desire to determine her own future. Maybe it's the way she struggled to figure out what her heart really wanted and what the right thing to do was. In any case, I loved Kate and Henry and their love story.  I did have a hard time reading about their mother's however, both of whom were selfish jerks who cared much more for appearances and position, and society than about the happiness of their children.  The way they tried to manipulate and use their own children made me want to seriously punch them in their respective noses, and I am not a normally violent person.

The story reminded me that sometimes choices have to be made between what we want and what we want most. Kate and Henry must both face some difficult choices. Choices of the heart and choices of the mind. Kate desperately wants to escape what she calls her 'cage' and experience the world and her aunt's invitation to accompany her to India seems like the perfect opportunity, if only her mother would agree. After making an agreement with her mother, she sets off for Blackmoore, soon to be Henry's home, determined to avoid marriage, but Henry has other plans. I loved the scenes with Kate and Henry, they made me smile. And nobody writes heart-wrenching kissing scenes like Julianne Donaldson. Another book for the favorites shelf.

EXCERPT

Chapter 1

Lancashire, England, July 1820

A woodlark sings of heartache. A swallow calls in the two-tone rhythm of a race. And a blackbird’s song is the whistle of homecoming.

Today it was the woodlark that called me to my window. I stopped pacing and rested my hands on the sill, leaning out to hear him better. For just a moment, my restlessness eased as I listened to this woodlark’s tale of heartache, of sorrow; his falling notes never ended happily, no matter how many times I heard him sing.

I usually loved the woodlark’s song better than any other. But today his sorrow made me nervous. I backed away from the window and turned compulsively to check the clock on the mantel again. It read only three. I cursed the slow crawl of time on this nothing-to-do-but-wait day. Several hours remained before night would fall and I could sleep and then wake and leave for Blackmoore. The waiting should have been comfortable for me—I had been waiting to visit Blackmoore all my life, after all. But on this last day, the waiting felt more than I could bear.

Opening my traveling trunk, I removed the Mozart piece I had packed away earlier that morning and left my bedchamber. The sound of crying reached me as soon as I opened my door. I hurried down the hall and took the stairs two at a time, stopping on the step above the one on which Maria lay sprawled.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” I bent over her prostrate form, imagining all sorts of calamities that might have befallen my younger sister while I was pacing in my room.

She rolled over, her face toward the ceiling, her dark, wavy hair clinging to her damp cheeks, her chest heaving with the force of her sobs. I grasped her arm, shaking her lightly, and said, “Tell me, Maria! What has happened?”

“M-Mr. Wilkes has gone away and m-may n-never return!”

I leaned back and looked at her doubtfully. “Really? You are crying over Mr. Wilkes?”

She answered with a fresh sob.

Pulling my handkerchief from my pocket, I thrust it toward her. “Come, Maria. No man is worth this amount of grief.”

“Mr. W-Wilkes is!”

I seriously doubted that. I tried to wipe her face with the handkerchief, but she pushed my hand away. I sighed. “You know, there are more comfortable places to cry than the stairway.”

She clenched her hands into fists and yelled, “Mama! Kitty is being unkind again!”

“Kate,” I reminded her. “And I am not being unkind. Only practical. And speaking of practical …” I reached toward her face with the handkerchief again. “How can you breathe with all that fluid on your face?”

She waved my handkerchief away with a sob. “Take your practicality elsewhere. I don’t want it.”

“Of course you don’t,” I said, my patience snapping. “You want to cry on the stairs for a man you have seen only five times.”

She glared at me while screaming, “Mama! Kitty is being unbearable again!”

“Kate,” I said, my own anger flaring. “My name is Kate. And Mama is not even here. She is out on calls. And if you refuse to see reason, then I refuse to comfort you. Now, please excuse me. I have a Mozart concerto to practice.”

She locked her gaze with mine and refused to move so much as an inch, forcing me to hold onto the banister and jump over her to reach the bottom of the staircase. Shaking my head in disgust, I entered the drawing room and shut the door firmly behind me. A moment later another one of Maria’s wails rose high and loud, and my cat, who sat perched on the pianoforte, arched her back and yowled in time. I shot her a look of disgust. “Oh, not you too.”

There are many wrong ways to play Mozart and only one right way. Mozart was meant to be played as precisely as one would work a mathematical equation. The music was meant to be marched out in regular fashion, each note a little obedient soldier, taking up only its allotted space in time. There was no room in Mozart for the disturbing influence of passion. There was no room in Mozart for a cat named Cora that clawed at my shoulder while attempting to climb away from the noise. And there was certainly no room in Mozart for sisters who wailed outside the door of the drawing room at the precise moment that I was trying to practice.

After several minutes of trying to play over the noise of Maria’s wailing, I was definitely playing Mozart the wrong way, pounding the keys with so much passion that I broke a fingernail. “Drat!” I muttered, and another sobbing wail came from the hall. I tipped my head back and yelled out over the noise, “Mozart is not meant to be played this way! It is an insult to his musical genius!”

I heard quick footsteps outside the door, and Maria’s sobbing turned to nearly incomprehensible speech. “Kitty was so unbearable, Mama, and she has no compassion for my heartache and told me to cry elsewhere when anyone could see that I did not choose a place to cry, I simply had to cry and happened to be near the stairs when the impulse struck—”

had

“Oh, not now, Maria!”

At the sound of my mother’s voice, Cora leapt from my shoulders to the floor. In a streak of grey fur, she dashed across the room and hid herself under a chair.

The next moment the door flew open, and Mama marched into the room. She had not stopped even to take off her bonnet, and her chest heaved in an almost violent fashion from her quickened breathing.

“Is it true?” She placed a hand on her heaving bosom. “Can it possibly be true, Kitty?”

“Kate,” I reminded her, playing on. Mozart required concentration, and now that Maria’s wails had quieted to whimpers, I intended to make good use of the comparative quiet.

In an instant, Mama stalked over to the pianoforte, her shoes making hard clicks on the wood floor, and snatched my music off the instrument.

“Mama!” I stood, reaching for my music, but she backed away and held it above her head. Only then did I manage a really good look at her face, and my heart quickened with dread.

“Is it true?” she asked again, her voice low and trembling. “Did you receive an offer of marriage from Mr. Cooper and reject him? Without even consulting me?”

I swallowed my nervousness and lifted one shoulder in a casual shrug. “What was there to consult about? I have told you how I feel about marriage.” I reached for my music, but she held it higher, outstretching me with the two inches she had on me in height. “Besides, it was Mr. Cooper! He has one foot in the grave! He will probably not live to see another year, if that.”

“All the better! Would that all of my daughters were so fortunate! How could you have thrown away this opportunity, Kitty?”

My upper lip curled in distaste. “I have told you over and over again, Mama. I have no intention of marrying anyone. Now please give me my music. Surely you want me to perform well at Blackmoore.”

Her lips pinched together, her face turned red, and she threw my music onto the floor. It landed badly, with pages scattering, bent, like the wings of wounded birds. “Mama! Mozart!” I crouched down, hurrying to retrieve the pages.

“Oh, Mama!” Her voice was high and mocking. “Mozart!” She fluttered her hands around her face. “Mama, I do not want to do anything sensible like marry well. Mama, I want only to go to Blackmoore and play Mozart and waste every hard-earned opportunity.”

I stood, my music gripped to my chest, my face hot. “I do not think my goals, although they may be different from yours, can qualify as a waste—”

“Your goals! Oh, my, that is rich.” She paced in front of me, her shoes clicking hard with every step, as if she would stamp out my will and my voice too if she could. “What exactly are your goals?”

“You know my goals,” I muttered.

She stopped in front of me, her hands on her hips. “What goals? To disappoint? To waste precious resources? To turn into an old spinster like your aunt Charlotte?” Her dark eyebrows flattened above her eyes. “Is this why I have invested in you? To gain nothing in return but a silly girl who cares only for Blackmoore and Mozart?”nothing

I lifted my chin, willing it not to quiver. “That is not true. I care about more than that. I care about India, and I care about Oliver, and I—”

“Oh, do not mention India to me, girl. Not again!” She threw up her arms. I flinched involuntarily. “I cannot believe Charlotte would dare to invite you against my wishes. India! As if you already were not enough of a burden on me, with your stubbornness and your—” She whirled around and stalked back toward me. I told myself not to shrink. I hugged Mozart to my chest and commanded my chin to stay raised. I held her gaze.

“This is the end, Kitty,” she said, raising a finger and shaking it in my face. “I have had enough of your willfulness. I will show you that I know what is best for you, and I will do it starting now. You will not go to India. I will write to your aunt Charlotte myself and tell her I have finally made a decision. And—” She grabbed my chin, forcing it up to close my mouth, which had opened in automatic protest. Leaning close, so close I could smell the stale tea on her breath, she whispered, “—and you will not go to Blackmoore. You will stay here and learn your proper place, and do not bother speaking to your father about it, or you will be in even worse trouble than you are right now.”

She released me with a flourish, a triumphant light blazing in her dark eyes.

I shook my head, my heart pounding. “No, Mama. Please. Not Blackmoore. Please don’t take Blackmoore from me—”

“No? No?” She held up one finger, silencing me with the hard stare of her eyes, and said in a low voice. “Go to your room and unpack, Kitty.”

I stared at her eyes. They were the same color as an old, rusted trap I had found in the woods when I was seven. A rabbit had been gripped in its iron teeth. The little thing was no longer struggling when I found it, but it still breathed, and it saw me. Its eyes moved when I bent over it. I tried frantically to free the animal, but the rusted old metal would not yield to my prying fingers.

In desperation, I had finally run to Delafield Manor and dragged Henry back through the woods. He looked at the rabbit. He shook his head. He picked up a large rock and told me to turn away and cover my ears. I cried, but I did as he said.

A few moments later, his hand was on my shoulder, and I opened my eyes and lowered my hands. He said that the rabbit was no longer suffering. He said that was the best we could do for the poor thing. I supposed Henry got rid of the trap later. I never saw it again, even though I spent nearly every day in the woods. But I could not forget the look of it. I could not forget the large teeth and the rusted color and the tenacity of its grip.

In this moment, I saw the same cold tenacity in my mother’s eyes. She would take Blackmoore from me and the hope of India, and there was nothing I could do to stop her. There was no prying at her, no freeing myself from her will. Despair beat at me with barnacled fists.

“My name,” I said in a low voice, “is not Kitty. It is Kate!” I marched past her, reached under the chair for my cat, and left the room without crying. I tripped over Maria, forgetting that she was sprawled across the stairs, and fell hard on both elbows as I held on to Cora and Mozart.

I did not cry, even though pain shot up both arms and Cora scratched my cheek in an effort to wriggle away. I did not cry as I scrambled to my feet amid the yells of Maria to watch where I was stepping, and I did not cry as I ran up the remainder of the steps, down the hall, to the last bedroom on the right, and locked the door behind me.

I set Cora down and threw my music onto the bed. Pain throbbed in my elbows and shins, but the twisted, impotent pain of my helplessness screamed louder than any physical pain. I clutched my hair with both hands and paced the floor, fighting back the urge to cry. I should have anticipated something like this. It was so typical of Mama to swoop in and ruin everything, just when I thought I would finally have my heart’s desire. But even more infuriating than Mama’s interference was the fact that I was wholly powerless. At seventeen I was caged in this house of stone and glass and hardened feelings and expectations I would never meet.

A stifled scream rattled in my throat. An overwhelming urge to destroy something possessed me, shocking me and stilling my steps. The last time I had given in to such an urge, I had lived to regret it. My gaze dropped to the loose board under the window. I looked at the wooden chest at the end of my bed. It had been locked for so long. But I had nothing to lose by looking inside it now.

My hands shook as I pried at the loose board under the window until, with a protesting creak, it came free of its constraints. I plunged my hand into the hole, scraping my fingertips on the old, splintered wood, until my fingers closed around the smooth metal of the key. I knelt in front of the wooden chest and stared at the lock I had not turned in ages. Finally I took a deep breath, inserted the key, turned it, and raised the lid.

The scent of cedar wafted up. It smelled like my childhood, like secrets. I held my breath as I lifted the model from inside the chest. It was always heavier than I remembered it being. I set it down on the floor, then lowered the lid, and set the model gingerly on top of the chest.

Sitting back on my heels, I gazed with a mixture of admiration and regret at the wooden model. It was always thus. I loved it and regretted it at the same time. I loved it for what it was. I regretted what I had done to it. With one finger, I carefully traced the outline of the roof, stopping when I reached the spot where the roof was destroyed, the remains of the careful workmanship a splintered wreck. I lifted my finger, skirting the wreck, and set it down again where the model was whole. “This is Blackmoore,” I whispered to myself. “It has thirty-five rooms, twelve chimneys, three stories, two wings …”

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