Lorna Doone

by R. D. Blackmore
720 pages, Romance
Reviewed by Jeanne

Not fast-paced, but enjoyable; some questionable elements.


Subtitled "A Romance of Exmoor," this classic novel is set in the late 17th Century, around the time of the Monmouth Rebellion. It is told from the first-person perspective of farmer John Ridd, whose father was killed in cold blood by the high-born, outlawed Doones of Bagworthy. These Doones, after having been ousted from their lands years ago, came to settle in an Exmoor valley and now terrorize the vicinity without fear of retribution. They are hated by the common folk, but John Ridd meets one who captures his heart: the beautiful Lorna, destined to be the queen of the Doones. John would give anything to free Lorna from the Doones, but her past and future, as well as jealous Carver Doone, threaten their love.


John Ridd and his family refuse to attempt revenge on the Doones after his father's death, although as a child John did dream of shooting some of them. John is fairly upright, although his love for Lorna does sometimes seem to border on the obsessive. He also does not take part in the Monmouth Rebellion, although most of the Exmoor folk do. One character is obsessed with money - gaining and hoarding it.

One character, Tom Faggus, is based on legends of a renowned highwayman, and thus he is hardly the most moral of fellows. The Doones are portrayed as courageous, but also wicked. Several times attacks are led against the Doone Valley, and many are killed.

Spiritual Content

God and His Providence are mentioned frequently, usually with respect. However, He seems to be portrayed as very remote, and there are several places where John questions God's will. Lorna is a Catholic, and John, a Protestant, finds that no barrier to their love (although at one point he does think in passing that she will have to be converted before they marry). He also states that not only would he give up his life for Lorna, but he would give up his mother, his sisters, and all hope of life "hereafter," and his love for Lorna thus seems to be higher than his love for God.


The death of John's father is described. The Doones murder a number of people. The carnage after a battle during the Monmouth Rebellion is also portrayed, and the execution of traitors is mentioned in passing. A number of people are shot throughout the story, some seriously and some not. The kidnap of a mother and cruel murder of her child by the Doones is described. During an attack on Doone Valley, many are killed. One character is shot and the scene vividly described. One person drowns.

Drug and Alcohol Content

John and other men drink great quantities of beer and ale, but never seem to be the worse off for it.

Sexual Content

The Doones frequently have multiple "wives" and have a habit of kidnapping local women. Carver Doone intends to force Lorna to marry him. Lorna's beauty is described often. There are several kisses, and John also appears to flirt with other women "just to practice."

Crude or Profane Language or Content

The Doones say "cursed" and "Curse it!" Jeremy Stickles takes God's name in vain occasionally.


Blackmore incorporated a number of historical events, people, and legends into this novel, including The Great Winter, Judge Jeffreys, and legends about the Doones and Tom Faggus. The story is very good, although the first-person narration tends to ramble off from the plot and so some parts are tedious. It is, however, a romance that has been enjoyed by men and women alike since its publication in 1869, and its distinctly masculine tone sets it apart from the majority of such novels.

Fun Score: 3.5
Values Score: 2.5
Written for Age: 13+

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