This book had many of the elements I enjoy about Marillier's books: a persistent sense of history (both familial and cultural), realistic but strong female characters, a romantic thread, side characters with personality, an atmosphere that adds to the suspense, and cool historical details.
Like the Sevenwaters trilogy, this book is set in Ireland, but the action takes place somewhat later in history than the other books I've read by Marillier. My guess would be 1100-1400 but I don't really know.
The main character is Caitrin, a young woman with a talent for scribing and translation. But she is running from a dark past, and her fear makes her willing to go where no one else in the settlement at Whistling Tor will go--up the hill to a lonely, eerie castle rumored to be cursed.
Taking a scribing job at the castle means digging into its secrets, and the family history is full of mysteries, ghost stories, and untimely deaths. As Caitrin begins to befriend the members of the household at Whistling Tor, she gets more involved in their affairs.
She develops a volitile relationship with Anulan, the moody, physically challenged lord of the estate. Self-confidence and trust are issues for both of them. But while Caitrin learns more about Whistling Tor and its strange inhabitants, enemies threaten to invade and Caitrin, Anulan, and the rest of the household must figure out how to harness the unruly strength lying within the estate.
In this story, everyone has to face up to the past, and though there are complexities to each situation, no one really gets off the hook. Evil deeds, transgressions, angry words, and even complacency are all acknowledged as difficulties to be overcome.
All in all, "Heart's Blood" held my attention strongly and made me care about the future of each character, major or minor, so I was happy with it. It would be great to have more tales set in Whistling Tor. It would be interesting to see what happens to the characters and their land next.