A common source of conflict in the plot of a romance novel is a Big Misunderstanding that drives the couple apart. What makes this book rather unique in that regard is that the misunderstanding has already taken place years before the story begins—and the two protagonists never reconciled.
Despite this acrimony, when Violet finds out that her husband James has been injured, she rushes to the country house to be by his side—only to run into him at an inn, in perfect health and annoyed by her concern for his well-being.
This incident sets off a series of light-hearted revenge as Violet and James try to out-do each other: Violet pretends to be ill so that James will know how she felt when she thought he was sick, so James invites Violet’s mother to tend to her. As their actions escalate, James and Violet (separately) reflect on the incident that drove them apart and the infuriating characteristics that they see in each other begin to soften.
This is one of the funniest historical romances that I have read in a long time. The tone is very light and the quips are non-stop as Violet and James try to trick each other. But at the same time, there’s a sense of gravity as they begin to process the feelings surrounding that initial misunderstanding. There are so many hurt feelings and it’s easy to suspect the worst when it comes to other people’s intentions.
Violet and James have wonderful chemistry together. Even when they are sniping at each other, its’ clear to see that they care for each other deeply. After all, despite a whirlwind courtship, they were a love match—before that aforementioned misunderstanding drove them apart.
The two protagonists are supported by a delightful cast of secondary characters of friends and relations. I am not sure what Waters’ intentions are, but it is my fervent hope that we might receive sequels featuring these secondary characters paired together in their own starring roles.
I would absolutely recommend To Have and to Hoax. Waters brings Regency England to life and I loved the consistent pace of the cat-and-mouse game. I never knew what was going to happen next—Violet and James certainly outdid themselves over and over again. I am already looking forward to Waters’ next book.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.