Beginning with The Secret Heart, the No Better Angels series revolves mostly around the lives of three nobles who grew up together: Lily, Alfie, and Adam, and their friend the Duke of Clive.

Each gets their own book and HEA. This four book, independently published historical romance series is actually worth your while. It’s uneven across the novels, but there are such interesting cultural bits: the making of ink, a house party scavenger hunt, clandestine boxing, that it keeps you reading. And they’re all quite reasonably priced at less than $4 so even if you do indulge, your wallet won’t regret it too terribly.

I picked up the first in Erin Sartie’s series based on a recommendation from the website Smart B**ches, Trashy Novels (who have never yet let me down) to balance out some non-fiction reading and boy am i glad I did.

The first book, The Secret Heart, turned out to be one of those rare gems (and even rarer– self-published!) of a romance novel– one where the characters are expertly drawn, have realistic, believable emotional arcs, don’t act too stupid to be true, and where there are true obstacles (instead of mocked-up, paper-thin problems easily solved by the hero or heroine just TALKING to each other for once) to the HEA. It concerns a pragmatic Earl who is a secret boxer and a woman desperate to escape her family. This one was probably one of the stronger of the four novels.

The Lover’s Knot involves the new Duke of Clive (the Earl’s friend from prior book) and a woman engaged in trade and was my favorite of all four. Maybe because of the parts about making ink? Sophie engages in trade out of desperation, and the parts about her business are such fun to read. I am a sucker for second-chance romances and that is what Sophie and Julian are. There’s a tragic occurrence in their past that causes them to doubt each other, but at least its partially explained by slight drunkeness and confusing circumstances. The steamy bits are quite lovely as Julian and Sophie learn to love each other and compromise at the same time.

The Orphan Pearl should have been better than it was. Lily Spark (who grew up with the Earl and the series’ rake Alfie) left home and married a Turkish man and got embroiled in politics by finding a fabulous, legendary pearl that she then ran off with back home to Britain. Meanwhile, a non-noble man who was discredited for warning the gov’t about the politics involved with the pearl, is brought back to take care of the situation. The pearl becomes a red herring, really, and I never melted along with the hero towards the flighty heroine. We do get Alfie’s backstory, as he was responsible for Lily taking off in the first place. Also interesting…we revisit the Duke of Clive, who isn’t always portrayed in the best of lights. It was refreshing to see hero/heroine from other books as more human instead of ultra competent mary sues.

The Young Blood, is the most uneven of the series. On one hand, scavenger hunts with carved carrot windmills! Bloody murder mystery! Hot air balloon chases! A rake reformed! On the other hand… mostly all they did was travel and talk about being restrained while not being restrained really. Alfie and Sabine’s romance also didn’t sell itself to me mostly on the Sabine side (why is someone so practical going against her nature?) Still a satisfying conclusion.