To Have and To Hoax by Martha Waters, Review: Feisty flirtations

To Have and To Hoax, Martha Waters debut novel, is feisty and fabulously distracting romantic fiction and a timely reminder life is too short for petty squabbles.

To Have and to Hoax by Martha WatersTo Have and To Hoax Synopsis

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.

(Atria Books – April 2020)

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I am not a reader typically drawn to the Regency period and generally have little patience for petty bickering, but I found Martha Waters’ debut a delightfully entertaining romance.

Yes, the emotional sparring perpetrated by Violet and James is childish and even infuriating at times, but despite this Waters’ ensures readers want only the best for them.

Willful and headstrong, this pair are endearingly ahead of their time in respect to ideals on free-thought and will, and bucking at the chains of Regency society. They are good-hearted characters of substance who have allowed their pasts, pride and stubbornness to deprive them of happiness.

There was no time for lovesick musings; she cringed at the fact that she had even thought the word lovesick. Because she was certainly not that. She had read enough to know that the drippy, lovesick girls in novels were, without exception, most frightfully dull, regardless of the fact that they were frequently the heroines of their stories. Violet refused to count herself among their ranks…

James and Violet’s rapier-sharp verbal sparring is infused with wit and charm, and the social commentary woven into conversations with their respective confidantes often hilarious. It must be said, the romantic scenes are decidedly distracting also.

On one level, To Have and to Hoax is entertaining cotton-candy romantic comedy (doesn’t take itself too seriously) and thus the perfect reading escape right now. On another level, this novel is a timely reminder that life really is too short to allow historical slights, grievances or misunderstandings stand in the way of our happiness.

BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5  — Overall 3.75

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Genre: Romance, Historical, Drama, Humour

About the Author, Martha Waters

Martha Waters was born and raised in sunny South Florida, and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She works as a children’s librarian in North Carolina, and spends much of her free time traveling. To Have and To Hoax is her first novel.

* My receiving a copy from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions.