To Have and to Hoax
Martha Waters’ debut novel, To Have and To Hoax, had me laughing out loud but also throwing the book down with a groan. At times I thought this would land in B territory and at times I thought I would DNF it. Reader, I am still puzzled by this book!
Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley married five years earlier after being caught in an embrace alone on a terrace. They have known each other for only ten minutes, but have fallen head over heels in love by the time they marry a few days later. All goes well for a year but then Violet and James have a fight to end all fights.
Fast forward four silent years and Violet receives a note stating that James has been thrown by a horse and is injured and unconscious at their estate, and rushes to his side only to find that he has made a quick recovery. James is not at all gracious about seeing her and Violet decides to punish him for frightening and then dismissing her – she’s going to frighten him by pretending to have consumption. Enter the ‘doctor’ and the supporting friends. What follows is 300 pages of Violet and James trying to get the better of each other all the while lusting after each other.
This book is presented as a “fresh and hilarious historical rom-com” and there are some scenes that are quite funny. There is an obvious chemistry between Violet and James, and Ms. Waters can craft great bedroom scenes. The writing is solid and the side characters are terrific – in fact I liked some of them more than I liked Violet and James. So what is wrong with all this?
Well, the games between Violet and James just drag on and on. And on. Ms. Waters does a good job convincing us that they are still in love but then their actions keep showing us otherwise. I just wanted to yell ‘oh, grow-up!’ at Violet and James again and again. We are also kept in the dark about what the big argument four years before was about until way too late in the book and by then all I could think was that they could have saved themselves four years of sadness by just talking and LISTENING to each other.
In the end…C+. I was impressed by the writing and delighted with some of the dialogue, especially with the secondary characters, but the immaturity of the principals was too much for a solid recommendation. I will, however, give Ms. Waters a second chance – the good parts of this book were really good so I am hopeful for her future writing career.