I read the first and third books in Erin Satie’s No Better Angels series well over a year ago, maybe even two years ago. I adored them. Why did I not read this, the second book in the series at that time? Long answer: I’m a hoarder. The first step is admitting you have a problem. And my problem is ebooks. I snatch up anything that grabs my fancy if the price is right. And, then I am a weirdo control freak and force myself to read in a certain order even if it’s not what I want to be reading at a particular time just to work my way through my TBR. I “save” books that I really want to read by authors I love. I don’t know what I’m saving them for. And then, I finally get to one like this that I’ve been saving a long time…and it’s a disappointment. I still liked it and read it in only two days, but it didn’t hold a candle to the other two. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I don’t think that was the only problem with this book.
Sophie was once an heiress but lost all of her money and her handsome fiancé at the same time. She was injured and scarred and holds Julian, her ex-fiancé responsible. She drove him away and they have not seen each other in 10 years. Julian went off to London and Sophie stayed in her little town. During that time she has created a business for herself – she makes her own ink and runs a shop selling it which employs two other people. Her product is superior, and she prides herself on her innovation and is always developing new products. Julian comes back to town when he inherits the local dukedom. Julian has never understood or forgiven Sophie for driving him away, and he has also never stopped loving her. But, his predecessor appears to have died of suicide, and Julian recognizes that the suicide note was forged by Sophie. Julian and Sophie each work to try to discover who murdered the former duke, all while reconnecting with their former relationship.
There is a bit of a mystery element to each book in the series. In this one they are trying to figure out who murdered the former duke, but it is only a mystery to solve and there is not a suspense element. There was a lot of promise here with Sophie set up as a savvy inventor and businesswoman as well as a forger. I was disappointed that it actually stayed very realistic and didn’t go as far as it could have. Sophie is tough because she has to be, and she hasn’t had anyone to lean on in 10 years. Her defenses are there for a purpose, and she holds fast to them for a long time. There’s a weird bit about her having a terrible memory, but I found it confusing and never really bought it, and it does play a really important role in the story. I never felt like I really got to know Julian. He just didn’t read as a fully realized character to me, and I don’t think (even at the end) that he ever really bothered to know who Sophie really was. Yes, he appreciated her when others didn’t, but I never believed that he *knew* her.
Erin Satie’s books are what I consider darker romances. The characters are always flawed and do not act in the nicest ways. I have to be in the right mood to read this kind of book. Some days are Julia Quinn days, some days are made for darker things. I would compare Satie on par with Cecilia Grant and Rose Lerner. My innate optimism has taken a beating recently and I have been in a slightly bitter mood and these are the books I want right now. Even with a happy ending I would not describe these stories as ‘uplifting’.
One odd thing – the hero of the first book and the heroine of the third are siblings and those two books tie together. The characters from this second book only make a tiny appearance in the third (if I remember correctly) and the story isn’t connect at all together. The fourth book just came out and I’ll be reading it soon, and the hero made several appearances in this second book. So I would say read books 1 & 3 together and 2 & 4 together.