Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman (Blackhearts #2)

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“Blacksouls” by Nicole Castroman

5 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“Nicole Castroman brings the dangerous pirate ports of the Caribbean to life in this vibrant sequel to Blackhearts—the reimagined origin story of history’s most infamous pirate, Blackbeard.

Edward “Teach” Drummond is setting sail to the Caribbean as first mate on the most celebrated merchant ship in the British fleet—until he rebels against his captain. Mutiny is a capital offense and Teach knows it could cost him his life, but he believes it worth the risk in order to save his crew from the attacking Spanish ships.

Sailing on the same blue waters, Anne barely avoids the Spanish attack, making it safely to Nassau. But lawless criminals, corrupt politics, and dangerous intentions fill the crowded streets of this Caribbean port. Soon, Anne discovers that the man entrusted to keep the peace is quite possibly the most treacherous of them all—and he just happens to hold Teach’s fate in his terrifying hands.

Life and death hang in the balance when Teach and Anne are given a dangerous mission. It’s a mission that will test their love, loyalty and devotion, forcing them down a path neither one could have ever imagined.”

“Blacksouls” is one of those books that the more time you spend thinking about it, the more you come to love and appreciate the story and its characters. I honestly think that this is in my top three favorite books of the year, and I cannot believe that it took me this long to write a review for it! I guess reading a bunch of duds this spring kind of took up the free time that I use to write reviews… 😦

Last year, “Blackhearts” was one of the best books of 2016, and I completely fell in love with Nicole’s characters and her storytelling style. I loved the fact that “Blackhearts” was a historical novel rather than an high-octane adventure story, and that it was centered on developing the characters and the dynamics between them, rather than the drama that was about the ensue. I love historical fiction and learning about times and new places that I do not know much about, and I love the feeling of taking away some new piece of knowledge or developing a new perspective due to something that I have learned while reading. That sensation of discovery and enjoyment was one of the reasons why I loved “Blackhearts” so much, because it was more than a pyro maniac’s dream; it was about relationships and the invisible cords that linked them all together, and how people and many of their choices were dictated by the time that they live in. That aspect of “Blackhearts” was depicted with such accuracy that I instantly became a fan of Nicole Castroman, and I so admire her skill as a writer and the accuracy of her research. With all that being said about “Blackhearts,” I do have to say that as dear to my heart as Castroman’s debut is to my heart, “Blacksouls” definitely showed how much Nicole has grown as an author over the past year, and let me tell you, this book was one killer of a ride.

After hearing the announcement that there would be a second book in Nicole’s retelling of Blackbeard’s life, I was, to be honest, a bit wary. I had loved the bitter sweet, tormenting ending of “Blackhearts” so much that I did not want a second book to ruin how I felt about the first. Seriously, readers, I should not have wasted my time worrying, because “Blacksouls” was so amazing and it exceeded all of my expectations!

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The second book of Ann and Teach’s story was dynamic, full of the perfect amount of drama and heartache, as well as tension and romance. “Blacksouls” was so well-balanced and wonderfully layered that it kind of blew me away; it was grittier and a bit more wild than “Blackhearts,” but I personally feel like that was the perfect match for how Ann and Teach’s story was unfolding. It was a truly magical experience to read a book that I instantly connected with, especially after a fairly disappointing spring for books!

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Nicole’s research skills were once again put to good use in “Blacksouls,” and I felt utterly transported to the time and place where Teach and Ann lived, fully experiencing the beauties and horrors of that era as their story unfolded before me. Nicole Castroman’s writing made the past come vividly back to life, and since I already have a weakness for well-written and well-researched historical fiction, it is no shocker that I fell more in love with this series and its characters because of how well-executed the historical aspects were!

Teach was (and is) the best pirate character that a reader and fangirl could ever ask for! (sorry, Jack!)

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He was equal parts swoony, wild, and determined, as well as good-hearted. Teach had been amazing in “Blackhearts” and I had completely fallen for him as a character, but underneath his strength, charm, and determination, Teach had felt like a boy during parts of the first book. In “Blacksouls,” however, Teach came in to his own, becoming a more quietly bold and strong young man. I loved seeing the character development that he experienced over the course of “Blacksouls,” especially since he and Ann were apart for half of this book. He was clever, charming, and intelligent in how determined he was to find Anne, which was pretty attractive, let me tell you. As much as I loved Ann and Teach together, though, I did like the fact that I could get to know each of them separately, and I liked seeing the friendship between Teach and John in action as they set sail together again.

I adored pretty much all of the characters in “Blacksouls”; I loved Teach and his fellow sailors, the young brother and sister that Ann sailed to Nassau with, and I loved to hate the villains of Ann and Teach’s story. Unfortunately, the only person I was not a huge fan of in this book was Ann herself, which surprised me because of how much I had liked her in “Blackhearts.” In “Blacksouls,” I had a hard time connecting with Ann, and I found her boldness and ferocity in certain situations to be a little unrealistic, feeling that her actions were sometimes foolish rather than brave, especially when the lives of others were at stake. I still liked Ann and Teach together when they had their reunion moment and they began to make plans together once more, but I really feel that Teach’s character development completely eclipsed that of Ann’s, which I am actually okay with. I would have loved to feel a bit more connected and attached to Ann like I had in “Blackhearts,” but me not being wholly on Ann’s side did not at all detract from my love for this book.

Ahhh, the romance. I still loved Ann and Teach as a couple, even if I was a bit more of a fan of him than her. It was wonderful seeing and experiencing the personalities of these two wonderful characters while they were apart, because I feel like I got to know both of them so much better that way. Them being separated for so long in this book also built the tension and made me more invested in their story and their situation as a whole. Nicole Castroman did such an amazing job of giving me as a reader just enough of their interactions to keep me reading and to be invested in their relationship, but not so much that it detracted from the rest of her book’s plot. I feel like the quote, “[his] parting was my pain,” basically describes this book and what it made me feel, especially when it came to the open ended ending!

Nicole was cruel once again with her ending, but I totally respect her because I AM HOOKED!

I do not want to spoil anything about “Blacksouls” for you, so I will just say that Nicole Castroman did an amazing job of creating another magical and well-developed book. I was held in suspense of what might happen to Teach, Ann, and the other characters in this book, and there was loads of adventure and drama, and piracy to boot! I adored seeing the characters grow and develop apart as well as together, and it was wonderful to see how complex and dynamic Nicole’s story and characters have become. I loved the adventure and intrigue that was woven throughout “Blacksouls,” and I appreciate the fact that this book did not wander away from the heart of this series’ story: the second installment to Nicole’s series still had the tug of war between the romance and relationships like the first book, but it was also more. More complex, more dynamic, and I honestly just wanted to read more. Here’s to hoping that there’s a third book coming out next year, because that cliffhanger will haunt me until I get another book!

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“Blacksouls” was a wonderful, adventurous, and refreshing read, and if you have any fondness for historical fiction, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and/or “Poldark,” I think that you would absolutely adore this fantastic series!

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A New Book for You and Me…

You might have been wondering if I still roamed this earth (or blogerverse, depending on how you want to look at it), since it has taken me nearly four months to get back to my blog. *sighs* Well, I got lost to life, work, and college, but I was reading that entire time, and I hope to start writing on this blog again soon.

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Although, I am not back writing a review on my blog today, I did want to remind you all that “Blacksouls” by Nicole Castroman came out yesterday, and that you all should read “Blackhearts” as soon as you can so that you can be prepared for Nicole’s latest book. Here’s my review of “Blackhearts” by Nicole Castroman, in case your on the edge about reading it. I am very excited to read “Blacksouls” despite wishing that it was a one novel story, and I am anxious for my copy to come in the mail to see what is going to happen to Anne and Teach!

*waiting for my mail to come*

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If you like historical fiction with a twist, I definitely recommend “Blackhearts,” and if that does not tempt you to read Nicole’s books, I also heard that some piracy is about to make an appearance in “Blacksouls”…

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Les Petits Bonheurs #19…

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*sighs* I love “Blackhearts” by Nicole Castroman SO much. I purchased it back in February, and I have already read it three times. Call me obsessed, but I adore everything about Nicole’s writing style, from her historical accuracy to her amazingly vivid characters, and I love the fact that I have reread this book multiple times and it still had the same emotional impact on me as it did the first time. “Blackhearts” is one of those books that tears you up inside, but it also makes you buoyant with happiness while you are reading it. This is my favorite “pirate” book that I have had the pleasure of reading, and if you have yet to pick up this delightfully torturous book, you have to get yourself a copy of “Blackhearts” to read this summer, especially if you are a “Poldark” fan!

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman (Blackhearts #1)

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“Blackhearts” by Nicole Castroman

5 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“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 Curaçao—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.”

“Blackhearts” was such an amazing read! The story and concept of Nicole Castroman’s debut novel had seemed quite promising from its summary, but the reading material of the first part of this year has been a little spotty; some good and some not so good. I was wary going into “Blackhearts” because I desperately wanted to fall in love with the story and its character, and goodness knows I have a weak spot for historical fiction, but I was afraid that it would turn out to be another novel that did not reach out to me. I should not have worried because “Blackhearts” was the diamond in the rough that I had been searching for, and I was deliriously happy by how wonderful Nicole Castroman’s debut novel ending up being!

Nothing makes me happier than when an author writes a book that honors the historical fiction genre. I love how books have to ability to not only transport me to a different place, but to also help me discover and learn about something that I had little to no knowledge of before picking them up to read. Historical fiction, when it is well done, is the icing on the cake for me because it combines the magic of literature with facts and knowledge, and my favorite novels usually involve historical themes and events or a fantastical world that mirrors ancient cultures. When I had heard that “Blackhearts” was a historical novel based off of the life of the elusive pirate Blackbeard, I was as excited as I was wary, because some historical books can read like a dream, whereas others can be a bit mundane to get through. But let me tell you, “Blackhearts” is the kind of novel that reads like a dream.

Nicole Castroman is a truly gifted writer, and I fell in love with how she wove history into her retelling of Blackbeard’s life. I felt like I learned new things about the late 17th century from reading “Blackhearts,” and it was one of those books that seemed to just pull me into its story, characters, and era from the first chapter. Another thing that I admire about Nicole Castroman was how she was able to write such vivid characters who seemed to belong in the late 1600s, but who also resisted the restraints and the prejudices that existed during their time. Anne and Teach pushed against the boundaries of the world they were a part of in ways that made sense for the time period and what they had been raised to think and believe about the world. How they fought against their situations in life made perfect sense to me, and it made this story, their story, feel real, as if it could have been a part of history. I was so pleased to read a book where the mindset of the era was not disregarded in the protagonists, however wrong it may have been, for convenience’s sake. I was happy to see Nicole honor the historical facts and atmosphere, while still writing two amazing characters who were era appropriate, but who also thought for themselves and saw the world differently than those around them.

I loved Anne as a heroine. I thought that Nicole did such an amazing job of writing a female character who had been mistreated most of her life, but was not jaded into becoming a mean, abrasive person. Anne had endured a lot over the course of her life due to her heritage and what people perceived as “polite” society, and despite being driven to do a few unsavory things, her past and present did not strip away the determination and goodness of her heart. She was a strong female who stuck to her guns without becoming too intense or overbearing, even when what she really wanted was to be with Teach. Nicole did an amazing job of writing a genuine feeling character who responded to situations and acted like a person from her time would have, while still being a witty, independent female with a mind of her own. The ease in which Nicole seemed to mix historical facts and what we all love to see in female characters together made me love “Blackhearts” all the more, and I also loved that Nicole Castroman wrote a male character who was just as intelligent and independent as Anne.

I did not fall for Teach Drummond right away. I had been hearing many good things about this book and its characters, and how Teach was very similar to Ross Poldark from “Poldark,” which is a new favorite BBC show of my sisters and me, and so I was quite excited to meet Teach Drummond. The opening of “Blackhearts,” however, did not paint him a hero’s light, which made for an uh-oh moment, and I was worried for a little bit that I would love everything about this book except its hero. Despite the more…abrasive introduction, I ended up falling in love with the character that Nicole Castroman wrote, and I adored how I gradually began to care for Teach over the course of “Blackhearts.” Edward “Teach” Drummond was destined to become the dreaded pirate Blackbeard, and that should have repelled me on some level, but instead I found myself slowly falling in love with this character as he began to show me that he was an extremely dynamic and likable character. The more I got to know Teach, the more I liked him, and I loved the side of him that Anne brought out whenever they were together.

I completely fell for the slow-burn romance that blossomed and bloomed between Teach and Anne in “Blackhearts.” I loved that Anne and Teach started out mildly hating each other, because that meant there was no love at first sight for this couple. I think that was great decision on Nicole’s part because it led her hero and heroine down the path of them getting to know one another for a little bit, rather than them just being obsessed with each other. Nicole Castroman’s approach to Teach and Anne’s romance was perfect for this book because of its historical and fantasy foundation, and the progression of their relationship felt deliciously slow, even if this book did not span over that much time. I also liked the fact that both Teach and Anne were kindred spirits because of how they felt confined by the meaningless perceptions and expectations of the upper classes and “polite” society, and how they wanted to travel and see the world. Teach and Anne were individuals who desired more out of life than to just play the game that those in power had created, and I liked that they did not read like rebellions teenagers but like mature individuals who saw what was wrong with their time and wanted for it to change. Anne and Teach’s relationship felt well founded, and I thought that it felt genuine and was perfectly paced for who they were.

Most of the people who did not like “Blackhearts” thought that it was not “piratety” enough, and they were right. This book is not a pirate book, it’s a story about a young man and his journey to becoming one of the worlds most infamous pirates. What people disliked “Blackhearts” for was exactly what I loved it for, though; it was a strictly historical romance novel with a twist, not an adventure novel. The majority of YA books that I read are supposed to be epic tales of protagonists going on a journey where they find themselves and become heroes, with maybe a little (or a lot of) romance thrown into the mix. Nicole Castroman’s choice to write something a little bit different from everything out there made “Blackhearts” feel unique in how I got to know the characters and how the pacing made this story unfold. This book was a coming of age story, but I loved that there was not much action because its absence allowed me to have enough time to bond with Anne and Teach and to feel truly worried about what might happen to them. The lack of action almost made this book more suspenseful because I was drowning in my fear and sadness as to how Teach and Anne’s story would end. Oh, and let me tell you, those last few chapters hurt. The ending of “Blackhearts” was what I deem a “quiet heartwrencher” (just read Nicole’s book and you will understand what I am talking about!), but I thought that it was, in sense, perfect for the story that Nicole Castroman had told and for who her characters were. It was beyond bittersweet, and I loved it!

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Overall, “Blackhearts” was the perfect read for me. This novel was a completely immersive experience with its beautiful, slow-burn romance, its wonderful main characters, who were just right for the time they were supposed to have lived in and for each other, and the historical facts woven throughout it. The ending was also perfectly bittersweet, and it left me with quite the book hangover. Nicole Castroman is an amazing writer, and I cannot wait to see what she has planned for her second book, “Blacksouls.”