The story is told in the first person by the protagonist, John Ridd, supposedly some years after the events when he is a much older man. I daresay it might be an accurate portrayal of a man who likes to hear himself talk, relating past events- going into way too much detail, straying off topic, discussing at length subjects which are of interest to him, if not the listener. It makes for some tiring reading, however. Like his characters, Blackmore grew up in the Exmoor region, so his descriptions of it are vivid and realistic, which is great. Also, Blackmore was an avid fruit farmer and so his portrayal of the Ridd's farm and crops is likewise accurate. There's just way too much of it.
What does annoy me a bit is his habit of putting down his own intelligence. Over and over again he remarks on it, though there seems to be little cause: he runs the farm easily and profitably, deals with troubles which crop up, and acquits himself competently if not brilliantly among people of all ranks. He definitely seems at least as intelligent as most of the characters in the book, except perhaps Jeremy Stickles and Ruth. Even Lizzie, who is book smart, doesn't seem to possess much common sense, which often counts for more. Still John keeps bringing up his lack of brains until it becomes tiresome, and you begin to think that he's protesting a bit too much, and it may just be false modesty.
As for Lorna, well,she seems likable enough, if a little young and silly at times. Part of the problem is that we only see her through John's infatuated eyes, so her character is a bit one dimensional, because John thinks that everything she does is wonderful, and says so. A little of that goes a long way, and there isn't 'a little' of anything in this book. John's descriptions of other people whom he's not in love with contain no gushing, and are therefore more interesting. Frankly, I found the character of Ruth Huckaback to be far more intriguing, and was sorry we didn't spend more time with her.
Part of the problem is that the ordinary citizens have no guns while the Doones are well armed and well trained. John is one of the very few men in the area to have a musket, and he only has one because his father found it washed up on shore following the failed Spanish invasion. The government's soldiers are of course armed, but until the Doones inconvenience the State, it is far away and uncaring about the local concerns of Exmoor. It is notable that the only time in the novel a woman escapes from the Doones raiding her farm, it is because her late husband had a gun which she uses, killing one of them. Wherever you stand on gun control, it's hard to argue that people are better off in a society where all the guns are in the hands of the bad guys, or even in the hands of a capricious and frequently unjust government.
This has been a fairly critical review, but I truly did not dislike 'Lorna Doone'. It is in fact a very compelling story, and contains many really interesting details and exciting scenes. It also incorporates some actual historic events and people, which add realism to the narrative, and give you a sense of the place and time in which it occurs. Blackmore is also skilled at describing the setting, obviously having a great love for the wild beauty of the moorlands. There's just a bit too much of it. I never read abridged versions of books, but I'm willing to admit that 'Lorna Doone' is one novel that would be improved by being pared down a bit. There's a really good story here- it just gets buried sometimes in excess detail and extraneous plot lines.
* Tom Faggus was an actual highwayman of the time, who did indeed possess a remarkably loyal mare named Winnie. Many of his exploits in 'Lorna Doone' were factual ones, though Blackmore did change his fate. In real life, instead of marrying and settling down, Faggus was caught and hanged for his crimes.
* Lorna Doone has a cookie named after her, something not many fictional characters can boast of: