Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman


Goodreads: Blackhearts
Series: Blackhearts #1
Source: Library
Published: February 2016


An origin story for Blackbeart, Blackhearts follows the teenage Edward “Teach” Drummond and one of his household maids, Anne, as they fall in love with each and dream about finding their freedom on the sea.


Blackhearts is being marketed as a Blackbeard “retelling” and as a pirate book, but readers who go in with that expectation are likely to be as disappointed as I was when I first starting reading the story.  It becomes apparent fairly quickly that the ocean and seafaring at large are not going to feature in Blackhearts; that, presumably, will be saved for the sequels.  Rather, readers should approach Blackhearts as a historical romance that vaguely explains how the teen who will become Blackbeard developed a rebellious streak and a love of the sea.

Unfortunately, I didn’t love the book even as a historical romance, but readers are divided on this issue, so there’s still hope for you if you were looking forward to this book.  (I picked it up because Stephanie from Chasm of Books simply wouldn’t stop gushing, so I recommend talking to her if you loved Blackhearts too or want to be re-convinced you should pick it up.)  Personally, I wasn’t invested in the relationship between Teach and Anne, even though I think Castroman actually does a great job of writing some swoonworthy lines.  I know some readers take issue with Teach as a love interest, but that’s not my problem. Yes, he’s a bit of jerk, but we’re talking about a man who’s going to grow up to be a viscous pirate (and who’s rumored to have, uh, offered his wife to his crew).  So it makes sense to me he’s rough around the edges.  I still just wasn’t into Teach and Anne as a couple and didn’t feel a real connection.

I also felt the plot was a little bland.  As I said, I was expecting pirates, and I didn’t get any, so that was the first major letdown. After readjusting my expectations, I felt Blackhearts was just very standard YA historical romance fare, and the book really does read as the first book in series.  It’s clearly leading up to something else, rather than trying to be fully interesting as a self-contained story. This just isn’t my favorite type of series because I dislike feeling as though I’ve only read the first third of a story, and haven’t even reached the main “point” yet.

Finally, I admit I had a lot of nitpicky problems with the story, and I would not be surprised if readers who read a lot of historical fantasy type books had similar issues.  For instance, Anne is constantly fingering a gold watch in her pocket that no one knows she has, and any fantasy fan knows you don’t constantly reach into your pocket in public unless you want to alert people you have valuables there and have them stolen.  I was also confused Anne claims to have pockets sewn into all her dresses in the first place, because such pockets are anachronistic. Lastly, I think Castroman could have done more research on service and the roles of maids.  Anne seems to be a catch-all servant without a clear role, and she oddly keeps ALL the change from the money she is given to take to market, and somehow no one realizes she’s stealing it. A smart protagonist would give some of the change back, though a smart housekeeper would know how much change the maid should have. Maybe this is unfair, but the lack of attention to detail here makes me a little worried about how well Castroman is going to research ships and sailing for book 2.

I realize this is a fairly negative-sounding review, but I didn’t hate Blackhearts. Mostly I thought it was okay, just not remarkable. I think if readers go into the book knowing it’s not a “pirate book,” they’ll be in a better place than I was while reading it.  From there, it’s primarily a matter of how much the reader connects with Anne and Teach and their relationship.  It wasn’t right for me, but I think a lot of readers will love this book.

3 stars Briana

9 thoughts on “Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

  1. TeacherofYA says:

    Yeah, I was originally interested in reading it when I saw the cover and saw it was a retelling (I usually love those), but after I read the description it sounded bland. It’s too bad: retellings have potential and I am glad I steered clear of this one,
    Great and thanks for the review! 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I wasn’t entirely sure what it was about for a long time! I mainly picked it up because I knew Stephanie from Chasm of Books loves it, and I stumbled across it at the library. But the summary promises pirates, and I did not get pirates, and that always makes me irritable. I get it’s a good marketing strategy for getting people to pick up the book if you promise something exciting, but I think it’s also asking for lower ratings when readers don’t get what was promised. I assume pirates are in book 2, but I’m not going to make it that far in the series after being let down here.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jordon @ Simply Adrift says:

    Ohh wow, I didn’t know this boo kwasn’t about the pirate stuff! The cover even makes you think it’ll be all pirate-y! I’m glad you’ve warned me because I do want to read this so I would have been incredibly confused if there’s no pirating in this!

    To be honest, your review makes me think twice about reading it now! I really hate it when writers don’t pay attention to detail with small things. It’s the small details that can really make something believable or not.

    Thanks for the review!

    Jordon @ Simply Adrift


    • Briana says:

      I think marketing is walking a fine line with this one. Ok, it’s about a guy who later becomes a well-known pirate–but he does literally nothing piratey in this book. No one even gets on a ship. I assume that starts happening in the rest of the series, but it was a huge letdown for me for book 1 to have no pirates!

      Yes! I don’t claim to be some kind of historical expert, but I think you naturally pick stuff up if you read a lot of history/fantasy, so I’m surprised that an editor didn’t fix some of this stuff, even if the author initially included it.


  3. saraletourneau says:

    I wasn’t all that interested in Blackhearts when I first heard about it, and your review convinced me that I’m probably better off leaving it that way. Especially because it promises a pirate story, yet show very little in the way of pirates and sailing. I would have been just as disappointed as you were.


    • Briana says:

      No one even gets onto a ship until the end of book 1. So I assume good sailing stories and whatnot later in the series, but there’s definitely none here! This kind of marketing always irks me, and I always end up giving the book a lower rating when I feel disappointed I didn’t get what I was expecting based on the summary.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase says:

    I felt the same way you did on so many points! I was all set for a pirate book (or at least a bit of Teach going out on the ocean, and maybe Anne too), and I was so disappointed when that didn’t happen. I think if I had realized that it was simply a historical romance, I wouldn’t have even picked it up, because I’m just not a huge fan of books that are mostly romance. So I feel kind of like I was duped into reading this book. And I really agree with you about all the historical inaccuracies, and also how Anne was treated. She was a woman of color and this had such a little impact on her life in this story. Which is really inaccurate. Great review, Briana!


    • Briana says:

      I might have given the book a try anyway because I’d heard pretty good things about it, but I definitely felt as though I was tricked into thinking it was about pirates. That type of marketing really irritates. And, yeah, the historical setting wasn’t a main draw either. I wasn’t even entirely sure what country the author thought the characters were in, based on description. I just went with my own historical knowledge of the situation.


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