Title: Darkwood

Author: Rosemary Smith

Pages: 99 Pages

The Blurb

In the Spring of 1865, Silvia Harvey travels to Dartmoor.
She is to meet her fiancée, her cousin Gareth.
It is a match enthusiastically arranged by her family, as were the marriages of her mother and grandmother.
But Silvia’s hopes of a whirlwind romance are quickly quashed.
Gareth, though handsome, is cold and aloof. He has pale blue eyes that his smile has never reached.
Arriving at the historical house of Darkwood, Silvia finds herself increasingly isolated by her fiancée’s distance from her.
Matters are made worse by the presence of the lovely Estelle Benedict, who is as cruel as she is beautiful.
Left to her own devices, Sylvia explores the many rooms of the grand building, and finds a painting of her beloved grandmother Lizzie.
The face has been cruelly slashed, and she worries of the real story behind her grandmother’s fate…
Can Lizzie uncover the true history of the old house which seems to haunt its corridors?
Can she warm the heart of Gareth, and free him from the grasp of the vicious Estelle?
It will take a strong spirit to lay bare the secrets of Darkwood…

The Review

Darkwood is a historical romance which is set within the confines of a familial estate. Two cousins, Sylvia and Gareth, are set to have an arranged marriage due to a clause in their spiteful grandfather’s will.

Before the wedding, Sylvia sets out to find out the secrets of Darkwood and the details of her beloved grandmother’s passing. She is also determined to ensure that she is marrying for love and not just for money.

On the surface the plot of Darkwood seems like an excellent read. It has passion, drama, family feuds and romance; unfortunately, the promise of a great story is let down by a few things. Firstly, the story is very rushed. For example the character of Gareth – who to begin with is frosty and arrogant – suddenly changes with no real explanation or character development. Secondly, the writing reads like an instruction manual – then I went outside, then I pulled my coat closer, then I got in the carriage etc. It was clunky and uncomfortable.

I do believe that Darkwood, in the right writer’s hand, could have been excellent. Unfortunately, it fell a little flat.

Darkwood by Rosemary Smith is available now.

Darkwood

Synopsis

It is early in the 20th Century and the times are changing. For Hazel Louise Mull-Dare the changes are having a massive impact. She was there the day that Emily Davison was knocked down by a horse at the Epsom Derby and from that moment on she becomes obsessed with the rights and wrongs of the world.

Having lived an extremely sheltered life, Hazel – the daughter of a gentleman – looks at the world with wide eyed optimism and ends up landing herself in a spot of bother when she befriends the wrong sort of girl. Her life is further awash with turmoil when her father loses all of their money (and potentially their social status through gambling. It is these outside factors (among plenty of others) that force Hazel Louise Mull-Dare to grow up and to take stock of what is really happening in the world.

Review

Hazel is the second book that I have read by Julie Hearn and I have to say I liked it more than Rowan the Strange. It pains me to say that because I really enjoyed Rowan the Strange; as did the KS3 students that I read it with two years ago. Once again, Hearn has come up trumps. She has a brilliant ability to create believable and likeable historical fiction for children.

What is marvellous about Hearn’s style is that she uses history and the social changes to mirror the protagonist. In this case, the protagonist Hazel is growing up and becoming a young woman in a time when women were coming into their own. They were fighting for the vote and trying to gain independence; Hazel’s life has been so very sheltered that she gains independence through knowledge. As she learns the secrets of her family, the truth about so-called “friends” and the realities of what is expected of young women she becomes more and more incensed to have control.

It is this sort of fiction that is vital for young adults. Exposing young adults to fiction with a factual base is key to peaking curiosity and helping them realise the “what” and “when” of how modern day society was created and the sacrifices that people made; in this particular case, the fight for votes by the Suffragettes.

Hazel by Julie Hearn is available now.