Martha Waters comes to the blog with her debut offering, a romantic comedy set in the Regency era with
To Have and to Hoax
Violet and James met at a ball just over five years ago, and fell into love almost instantly. And from the beginning it is clear that they are the perfect match, even though both are very young and immature. Just how immature and young isn’t truly clear until we pick up with the story some five years on and the two are engaged in a battle of silence. Insecurities, issues from family that wasn’t available or simply manipulative (James), to overbearing and manipulative (Violet) had always had them both chafing at the ‘norms’ expected by family, and perhaps reveling in the shock that brought. While James is the “spare” and felt as if he was shuttled aside for his brother the heir, Violet was the focus of it all, and her curious nature and dismissal of the “propers” for a lady in her position: speech, interest, conversation and hobbies, had never ‘measured’ up to much in her mother’s eyes.
Together as newlyweds, they found friendship and passion, and James was so admiring of Violet’s way of looking at the world and her interest in near everything that crossed her path, as well as resenting her mother’s dulling and dampening influence on Violet allowed her to grow and thrive. They eschewed ‘accepted’ rules of society, socialized when and how they chose, and were sublimely happy. Until the ‘plan’ for them coming to ‘meet’ at the ball came out, and James realized he had been manipulated into the match: and unwilling to listen to Violet’s explanation of her role (none but a piece in the game). He instantly decided that he could not trust her – and the past four years have been spent in ever-increasing stakes as Violet determines to be noticed and a ‘wife’, or to move on.
This book is a giant game of chess – if drag queens played it and reality television and Jerry Springer were standing by offering not-so-helpful suggestions and encouraging daft plans of ‘faking consumption’ while using a schoolmate of James’ to ‘act’ as the doctor. What kept this book from completely falling into the farcical is the actual characters of Violet and James: neither wants another, both are desperately in love and longing for a marriage that feels settled, safe and they can trust in it – and their partner. But friends, family and even their own wild reactions to situations: him holding back when he wants little more than to speak out what he thinks but is afraid, her trying to keep the “upper hand’ and manage him into those lofty dreams that are the hallmark of her emotional immaturity – wanting grand gestures but ONLY if they come with the ‘proper level’ of remorse and understanding. When nothing has been discussed to bring this understanding forward. Fortunately for them both, they do work it out after many actual attempts and missteps, but along the way you can’t help but enjoy their own recognition of the extremes in which they’ve gone, the “ I know that she knows that I know that she thinks I know” moments – yes, just like that. Moments to laugh, moments where you want to shake one or both, and then to cheer them on as they try to start again and make up for four years of silence. The story engages, entertains and is a favorite for me both for twisting a romantic comedy a bit by setting it in the Regency era, and for the writing that brings the characters to life. A wonderful debut offering, sure to make Waters a name readers will look for on the shelves.
Title: To Have and to Hoax
Author: Martha Waters
Genre: British, Comedic Elements, Friendship, Historic Elements, Historic Romantic Comedy, Regency, Romantic Elements, Second Chance, Setting: Britain
Published by: Atria Books
Published on: 7 April, 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 30 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
In this fresh and hilarious historical rom-com, an estranged husband and wife in Regency England feign accidents and illness in an attempt to gain attention—and maybe just win each other back in the process.
Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.
Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent.
Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them?
With charm, wit, and heart in spades, To Have and to Hoax is a fresh and eminently entertaining romantic comedy—perfect for fans of Jasmine Guillory and Julia Quinn.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.