Hartslove by K M Grant
Hartslove is a novel based around one family and their home, the DeGranvilles of Hartslove castle, set in 1861. After their mother abandons them and with a father scarred by the horrors of the Crimean war and taking solace in drink, the children are forced to try and save their home by themselves. Daisy is the most prominent character, followed by her siblings, Garth, Rose, Lily and the indistinguishable twins Clover and Columbine. When their father spends the last of their money on an unruly horse he calls ‘The One’ they are at first furious. Soon they change their minds and do all they can to assist the horse in winning the Derby and saving the family home.
Their home is put up for sale and they attempt to train the animal with the help of the stableman, or so they think! Not such an easy task when most of the siblings are too young to ride, Daisy is crippled from a previous riding accident and Garth is paralysed by fear at the thought of riding.
During the time spent training the horse, potential buyers frequent the castle, forcing the children to invent ways to make sure they never make an offer for their home, knowing full well their drunken father would accept almost any offer made. The children are used to the ghost known as ‘The Dead Girl’ that innocently haunts the castle but are inspired by her presence to fake their own hauntings to scare any potential buyers away.
Can ‘The One’ really win The Derby, would it make their mother return, will a rich family buy the castle before they have a chance to save it, or will the castle be snatched for underneath their noses but someone much closer to home?
First of all, I must admit this is not the normal kind of book I read, I am drawn to the sci-fi/horror fiction, so this was a slightly unusual read for me. Saying that, I can completely appreciate that this book is beautifully written. The characters are well described, both visually and in personality to create a great mental image, as is the horse (strangely enough this description hasn’t been adhered to for the cover of the book which is a shame). Reading it reminded me of classic children’s stories such as Black Beauty and The Secret Garden. But is there a place for this kind of novel when teenagers are reading far more grown-up material? The style of writing makes it feel as if it is aimed at younger teenagers but the content itself feels suitable for a far younger reader. This leaves me slightly confused at who it’s really aimed at.
The ghostly touches to this novel saved it for me. The occasional occurrence of ‘The Dead Girl’, an unidentified priest, strange statues and the made-up hauntings by the children themselves stop this book from becoming too quaint and add a touch of dark humour that it needed. That being said, I would not say it’s enough to make this book appeal to boys or men.
There are a few twists and turns along the way, which makes this book enjoyable but I am afraid this story didn’t really grip me at any point and I occasionally found my mind wandering while reading it. I feel it was slightly padded and it the book was shorter, I would have found it a far more enjoyable read.
This is a romantically written, YA book with a slightly old fashion, fairytale feel. If I had a well-read, twelve-year-old little sister, I think this might be perfect!
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