To Swoon and to Spar
Grade : A-

Martha Waters continues her Regency Vows series with To Swoon and to Spar, the story of Penvale and his uncle’s ward, Jane Spencer. There are a few moments of clunky writing that pulled me out of the story, but they were small; this is Waters’ best romance yet, and quite a cracking read.

Peter, Viscount Penvale, has been working like the dickens to get enough money to buy back his family estate, Trethwick Abbey, out from under his uncle. Penvale finally has the cash enough to accomplish his dream, but his uncle has an additional caveat: to get the Abbey Peter must marry his uncle’s ward, Jane Spencer.  Since Jane is stiff of neck and strong of temperament and Peter is autocratic of soul, this may be an ordeal. But they both love Trethwick Abbey, and so they agree to a marriage of convenience, much to the horror of Penvale’s friends. Since she is, as his friends describe, a “country bumpkin” who hates London and he is a sophisticate, they have a long road ahead of them.

Soon after the engagement is agreed upon and the wedding takes place, Penvale discovers that the mansion is (supposedly) haunted and that his uncle unloaded the property at a cheap price due to this – and unloaded Jane because she is less than biddable. But is the place truly filled with ghosts? Crying babies, screaming women? Penvale soon figures out that Jane has been spooking his uncle with a fake haunting. But his refusal to be scared away by her machinations will force them to find a way to live together – and perhaps love together.

Witty banter, as always with Waters, comes to the forefront of the mix here, and it’s better than ever here. Jane is smart and strong-minded and Penvale knows how to respond to her rejoinders with panache. He wants to experience the joy of being back where he was raised; she, too, loves the house and would do just about anything to defend it. They end up on the same side of the fight soon enough, and once they are they’re adorably formidable. Love sneaks up on them bit by bit, and we’re happy to be on the bumpy, wonderful, silly and eventually suspenseful ride.

Waters also knows how to perfume each of her novel with characters from the previous outings in a way that feels natural and not overwhelming. We get to see everyone from the previous books and their reactions to Penvale’s choices and Jane’s existence both feel natural.

There’s a whiff of screwball comedy to To Swoon and to Spar that carries the book right through to its lovely conclusion. It’s definitely a high mark in Waters’ career and will delight fans who have been breathlessly waiting to see what she was going to do with Penvale. The life she’s given him is quite the fun ride.

Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes

Grade: A-

Book Type: Historical Romance

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : April 11, 2023

Publication Date: 04/2023

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Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at, follow her on Twitter at or contribute to her Patreon at or her Ko-Fi at
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