The widowed Diana, Lady Templeton and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham are infamous among English high society as much for their sharp-tongued bickering as their flirtation. One evening, an argument at a ball turns into a serious wager: Jeremy will marry within the year or Diana will forfeit one hundred pounds. So shortly after, just before a fortnight-long house party at Elderwild, Jeremy’s country estate, Diana is shocked when Jeremy appears at her home with a very different kind of proposition.
After his latest mistress unfavorably criticized his skills in the bedroom, Jeremy is looking for reassurance, so he has gone to the only woman he trusts to be totally truthful. He suggests that they embark on a brief affair while at the house party—Jeremy can receive an honest critique of his bedroom skills and widowed Diana can use the gossip to signal to other gentlemen that she is interested in taking a lover.
Diana thinks taking him up on his counter-proposal can only help her win her wager. With her in the bedroom and Jeremy’s marriage-minded grandmother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Willingham, helping to find suitable matches among the eligible ladies at Elderwild, Diana is confident her victory is assured. But while they’re focused on winning wagers, they stand to lose their own hearts.
With Martha Waters’s signature “cheeky charm and wonderfully wry wit” (Booklist, starred review), To Love and to Loathe is another clever and delightful historical rom-com that is perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Evie Dunmore.
I don’t read nearly as much historical romance as I used to, but after only one book, Waters has become a must-read author for me. As I read that aforementioned one book, I had a feeling about the romantic pairing for the next book, and I was pleased to see it come to life in this book.
I love that so many tropes are flipped upside down. Usually, romantic leads are preternaturally good at sex, so it’s a nice change of pace to find one who… isn’t. And it’s even better that he’s willing to admit that he could use some pointers in the love department. Progress is wonderful!
Diana is such a fun heroine. Her “work” with Jeremy is supposed to be strictly a business arrangement, but when she arrives at the house party, she loses the plot almost immediately. Heroines who fall in love after declaring that they will never ever fall in love are among my favorites. I don’t know if that’s a real trope, but if it’s not, it should be.
The characters here are so richly developed, so it’s fun to see them interacting with each other, even when they’re not doing anything particularly interesting. They turn the mundane into something exciting. The banter is so topnotch, and I found myself smiling throughout the book at the insults volleyed back and forth.
I would absolutely recommend To Love and to Loathe. This book functions well as a standalone, but starting with To Have and to Hoax is a solid decision that will make you even more excited about reading this one. I am so thrilled with this new age of historical romances, and I’m already eagerly awaiting Waters’ next book.
I received an ARC of this book from Atria/NetGalley.