Author: Martha Waters
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?
[To Love and to Loathe #2 Review]
After reading and enjoying the second novel in the series, To Love and to Loathe, I decided to backtrack and read the first novel, To Have and to Hoax. Since the main characters in this story are featured in the second novel, I already knew about the ending, but I was curious how the characters would get from point A to point B. I also was very interested to read a story about an already established couple as the story is about Violet and her husband, James, trying to reconcile after falling out. The story explores if they can find a way to love each other again.
The novel opens with their first meeting and the eventual proposal. In May of 1812, Lady Violet Grey is preparing for her first London Season at the age of 18. She is excited, but also weary as her mother is very overbearing. Her two friends, Diana Bourne and Lady Emily Turner are there for her if they need her, but cannot stop Violet from being the rebel that she is. A few weeks into the Season, Violet found herself in a precarious situation, as she was alone on a balcony at an event with Jeremy Overington, Marquess of Willingham, the closest friend of Diana’s older brother, Penvale. To save her reputation of being found alone too long with one gentlemen, Jeremy invites his friend, Lord James Audley to take his place while he steps away and James and Violet can return to the ballroom together. However, things do not go according to plan as James and Violet have an instant connection and are caught by Violet’s mother. To save her reputation, James proposes to her on the spot and the two of them are married shortly after.
The main story takes place five years later starting in July of 1817 and the two of them are currently not in a good place after falling out four years ago. The original argument was due to a conversation that James overheard involving Violet, but the two of them never fully get around to discussing it and instead live two separate lives yet still care for the other. When James is thrown from a horse, Violet is quick to try to go to his rescue. It reignites feelings in both of them, but they are too childish to talk. Instead, they each come up with elaborate schemes to try to get the other to prove that they are still in love. Along the way both of them acknowledge that, they are immature and agree when their friends point it out and agree that they are poor at communicating, but both are too stubborn to change.
The two characters are fun and the cast as a whole is what makes the novel, as I loved the entire ensemble. While the two main characters and their silly antics can be a bit much at times, it was light-hearted and a nice escapism into the borderline ridiculous. I do wish that the timeline were different, as four years seem a bit too stretched out to make this seem extremely plausible. I would have preferred the events in this story to take place earlier into the marriage (or even later). Either way, reducing the time they were not in a good place would have helped me to find this story more relatable as I cannot picture not attempting to fix something for four years only to have a revelation that I still care.
Overall, this one was a cute story, but it was not my favorite between the two novels. This one needed a little more resolution by the end as I did not fully see that the characters grew enough to avoid another huge communication issue in the future. I did like getting to know Violet and James more as their story was discussed in the second novel, so it was nice to get the background story; however, if I read this one first, I might not have been as motivated to read the second. I might have checked it out down the line, but the second novel, although not spectacular, was at least enough to make me want to read this one and the eventual third novel.