Author: Martha Waters
The “sweet, sexy, and utterly fun” (Emily Henry, author of The People We Meet on Vacation) Regency Vows series continues with a witty, charming, and joyful novel following a seasoned debutante and a rakish theater owner as they navigate a complicated marriage of convenience.
Lady Emily Turner has been a debutante for six seasons now and should have long settled into a suitable marriage. However, due to her father’s large debts, her only suitor is the persistent and odious owner of her father’s favorite gambling house. Meanwhile, Lord Julian Belfry, the second son of a marquess, has scandalized society as an actor and owner of a theater—the kind of establishment where men take their mistresses, but not their wives. When their lives intersect at a house party, Lord Julian hatches a plan to benefit them both.
With a marriage of convenience, Emily will use her society connections to promote the theater to a more respectable clientele and Julian will take her out from under the shadows of her father’s unsavory associates. But they soon realize they have very different plans for their marriage—Julian wants Emily to remain a society wife, while Emily discovers an interest in the theater. But when a fleeing actress, murderous kitten, and meddlesome friends enter the fray, Emily and Julian will have to confront the fact that their marriage of convenience comes with rather inconvenient feelings.
To Marry and to Meddle is the third novel in the Regency Vows series. While each novel features a new couple, the time is continuous and events from the previous novels are referenced in this story. The timeline of this novel begins shortly after the end of the second novel as the group of characters are still at the estate and Jeremy and Diana have gotten together. I absolutely love the inclusion of their story in this one as the two of them are preparing for their upcoming wedding while the main story moves forward. The reader also gets to revisit Audley and Violet as they are featured secondary characters in this story.
This story follows Emily Turner who is six seasons in after her debut and she currently has no prospects for marriage. She is controlled and sheltered a lot by her parents, and she must constantly portray the image of perfection to keep her family’s status despite her father’s debts. Second-son of a Marquess, Julian Belfry, who owns and operates the Belfry theater in London, was attracted to Emily when he first met her and sees her as the perfect key to gaining approval of him and his theater in Society. Not only will Emily be able to elevate his status, but he can also help her by paying off all of her father’s debts and provide her an escape from her family’s control. This was a great conversation between them as Julian and Emily discuss terms before they agree that a marriage of convenience will work for them. The main portion of the novel follows the two of them navigate their marriage as each tries to fulfil their end of the bargain and discover that they each may be developing real feelings for each other.
The marriage itself happens fairly early in the novel, which may feel a little rushed if a reader is new to the series. For me, I loved this set up as it gave a lot of time for the couple to discover each other, including the adoption of the “demon” cat, which added a bit of fun to the story. Not only is there the element of the two characters trying to navigate married life, but there are also obstacles that come with each of them dealing with their families plus the theater subplot. Julian and Emily were fantastic together as I loved their communication. They may not be perfect, but they try hard to be as open as possible with their feelings with each other. This is a contrast to the couples in the other two novels as they experienced more deception compared to Emily and Julian. While it fit well with their characters, I did miss the one-upmanship type games between the couple. I still loved the two of them together, so it did not take away from my enjoyment of the story.
Overall, this novel was a very fun read. The characters are all likable and they complement each other well. As I read all three novels in the series, I love how the characters were consistent throughout each as I did not sense sudden changes in their traits from novel to novel. As Emily and Julian are each introduced in the earlier novels as secondary characters, it was excellent to get to know them more. They had great chemistry and banter and their relationship built up well as they began to feel more for each other than just partners. I did not see any reference to additional novels to the series online or in the back of this novel, but I hope there are more in the series. I would love to see a story about Penvale, Sophie, or any of the other secondary characters along with getting more updates on the past couples!
**I want to give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Atria Books, for a review copy of this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**