Review: To Have and to Hoax, by Martha Waters
Spoiler alert: this book was pure, delightful, wonderful fun. And the best part is - Martha Waters set up at least three other couples in this book, so we know it's gonna be a series (update: To Love and to Loathe, published on April 6th, is next, and is going to be about Lady Diana Templeton and Lord Jeremy, Marquess of something. I didn't really pay attention to his title. I may or may not have already pre-ordered it...)
Okay, let's now get to like, an actually constructive review of this, rather than me just gushing about how much I loved it.
First things first - I absolutely loved the story. I love second chance marriage stories; I always think it's so wonderful to see a romance that carries on beyond the typical happily-ever-after of the romance genre. And I especially adore that Violet and James fell back in love with each other by a series of escalating tricks and manipulations - Violet hires an actor to play a doctor to tell James she has consumption to prove a point. I mean, who doesn't love a heroine that is that deliciously, pettily, cruelly extra???? Violet is an 1823 petty bitch who lives for drama, and as a fellow petty bitch who lives for drama, she can do no wrong and I'm so glad she's cackling away as she plots revenge against her husband.
Secondly; the dialogue is pitch-perfect. The banter is delicious and the conversations, between all the characters, feel true to the setting and the time period and the characters without ever dipping into trying too hard or feeling strained. I also felt that each of the characters was given the space they needed to feel like differentiated, fully realized people; even though Martha Waters is quite clearly setting up the plots for the following books and couples in the series (Diana and Jeremy in Book 2; I think Emily and Julian are Book 3 and Sophie will be Book 4), the scenes with those characters never felt like trailers or stand-ins for a more important moment later in the book. I will just quickly say this - the fuck is up with all the J names, Martha?? It took me at least 3 chapters to be able to remember that Jeremy and James are not the same character.
And lastly, and perhaps most importantly - my God the sex is steamy. There is a tryst in the library that actually aroused me. I want to have a tryst in the library (makes note for my support bubble). But the build-up the sex is just as hot as the actual, you know, *wiggles eyebrows*. The chemistry was a slow, steady burn that exploded so well in all the kissing and all the arguing that one of the climactic scenes in which Violet flings brandy in James's face was actually hot. Reader, I did not know this was possible; and Ms Waters, I salute you for your service.
To wrap up - this is a perfect, delicious, highly enjoyable, wickedly fun Regency Romance romp that I could not put down and absolutely adored from start to finish. Violet and James were a wonderful couple that was wildly easy to root for, and their love story was believable, funny, and original. I cannot wait for the following books in this series, and Martha Waters is now up there with Evie Dunmore, Tessa Dare and Talia Hibbert with my auto-buy Romance authors.
Highly, highly recommend. April 6th cannot come fast enough.