The Lover's Knot, by Erin Satie

>> Saturday, December 05, 2015

TITLE: The Lover's Knot
AUTHOR: Erin Satie

PAGES: 300
PUBLISHER: Self-published

SETTING: 19th century England
TYPE: Romance

Memory is his weapon. Forgetting is her armor.

Sophie Roe was once a wealthy young lady, with an adoring fiancé. But that was ten years ago.

Now Sophie barely scrapes a living in trade. Her benefactor, the Duke of Clive, is dead. And the man she jilted is the new duke: rich, powerful, and determined to think the worst of Sophie.

Julian has never been able to forget Sophie. He intends to find out just why she rejected him—and why she’s lying about the old duke’s death.

Sophie is hopelessly entangled in the past. But as long-buried secrets and betrayals come to light, Julian may be the man to set her free...

I loved Erin Satie's début book, The Secret Heart. I loved the complex characters with fascinating passions outside of each other, as well as the mood and the vivid sense of place. The Lover's Knot shares many of those characteristics, but didn't work quite as well for me.

After 10 years Julian has returned to the part of the world where he grew up, having unexpectedly inherited a dukedom. Before he left he had been betrothed to Sophie Roe, a young local lady. However, that ended badly when Sophie inexplicably cast him off at their engagement party.

Now Sophie makes a living by making ink, the best ink in the country. Julian knows she's good at it, just as he knows she's good at forgery. He's convinced the letter supposedly written by the previous Duke as he lay dying is one, and that Sophie has a lot to explain.

There was a lot here that appealed to me. I love a romance with a painful past, and I loved all the stuff about Sophie's inks, which are more a mission than an occupation. I've never really thought about the subject all that much, but it was surprisingly fascinating.

What didn't work so well for me were the characters. Yes, they were complex, but that was kind of the problem. See, Sophie has a memory-related disability. Basically, as far as I could understand it, her memories start fading away pretty much as soon as they are formed. Sophie's way of dealing with this is chronicling everything that happens to her in her diary, and then coming back to it. What's in her diary becomes the reality of her past. Her diary says that Julian did something unforgivable on the night of their engagement, and even though she doesn't remember it, that must be the truth, because it's written down.

This was something that really, really didn't work for me. Part of it is completely me, not the book. One of my least favourite tropes is having a protagonist who can't trust their senses or mind. Mostly this arises in paranormals where there is a villain who engages in some sort of mind-control, but situations like Sophie's also qualify. Something in me just goes "nope" when this happens. I don't want to think about it, don't want to consider it. I guess I'm so terrified of not being able to trust my own mind that I refuse to engage with the possibility. I wish this wasn't the case (I do realise that this predisposes me against books with non-neurotypical protagonists), but it is. And this worked against my enjoyment of The Lover's Knot.

But this wasn't the whole of the problem I had with Sophie's memory issues. A big part was that I didn't feel it was very well done. I was never sure quite how it worked, and what we saw of it didn't completely make sense. It felt like some memories were fine, some weren't, and the reason a memory would fall in one or the other category was purely whether it needed to be ephimeral for the purposes of the plot or not.

And since the memory issue was the key thing about Sophie's character (even her passion for making the best ink, one that doesn't fade or deteriorate, is about her memory issues), she never completely made sense to me. It's a shame, because I love complex, flawed characters, but they need to feel recognisable to me. I never quite got why Sophie reacted in particular ways. One minute falling for Julian is the worst possible thing that could happen, because it was so awful when she loved him last time, the next she's read some old diaries and it's suddenly all fine, and I had no idea how she'd gone from one point to the next.

Oh, well. This won't put me off from reading more from this author. In fact, The Orphan Pearl is already on my TBR.

MY GRADE: A C+, since I rate purely on my enjoyment of a book.


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