Wednesday, September 21, 2016
The Secret Heart is Erin Satie's debut novel, which is almost hard to believe because it was one of the more polished books I've read in a while. With one book, Satie landed on my auto-buy list. I'm kicking myself that I didn't read it much sooner than this.
Caroline Small, the daughter of an impoverished Marquess, knows that if she doesn't marry, and marry well, she and her younger brother face very precarious futures. She happens to be staying at a Duke's estate where an old friend of hers lives as the Duke's ward. There she meets Adam, heir to the dukedom, the man who becomes the focus of Caro's attentions. For marriage to Adam would solve Caro's problems.
Caro and Adam each have a secret. Caro dances, having learned ballet from her governess. Adam boxes anonymously, as it would be a huge scandal for the heir to a dukedom to be caught brawling with the lower classes.
Rather than spend a lot of time describing the plot I simply want to say how much I appreciated Satie's writing. There's a wonderful sense of time and place. The characters are facing real problems, especially Caro who needs to marry. Her manipulation of Adam is deliberate. Which doesn't make Caro particularly likable, but it does make her understandable and vulnerable. I like that Satie took a risk to make one of her main characters less than likable. And Caro does have to face the consequences of her actions, not the least of which is finding herself in love with Adam, and, when her schemes appear to fail, no expectation of being able to marry him.
Adam, who is fighting demons of his own, not to mention an extremely controlling father, finds himself first enchanted by Caro and then disillusioned by her schemes. Adam is not at all your typical Regency hero, and that makes him unique and fascinating.
This is one of those books I couldn't put down. I highly recommend it and -- no surprise here -- I have already started reading the next book in the series, The Lover's Knot. I'm hooked.