To Woo and to Wed
Grade : B+

[wpv-autop]Martha Waters brings her enjoyable Regency Vows series to a rousing close with To Woo and to Wed, a charming and witty second-chance romance between two characters who have been dancing around each other for some time. The Marquess of Weston and Sophie, the widowed Lady Bridewell, clearly have a history together and have been crying out for their story to be told. Well, this is it, and although I found one aspect of the novel a bit frustrating, I can say that on the whole, it was worth the wait.

When, in her third London Season, Sophie Wexham met the Marquess of Weston it was… if not exactly love at first sight, something fairly close to it. West is attractive, kind, funny and – unlike so many other men of his ilk – as happy to listen to Sophie’s thoughts and opinions as he is to voice his own. They’ve reached an ‘understanding’ and all it wants is for West to speak to her papa so they can become officially betrothed – but before West can do that, his father, the Duke of Dovington – who has already made clear his opposition to his son’s choice of bride – not so subtly threatens to ruin the marital prospects of Sophie’s four younger sisters should their engagement take place. Furious, Sophie finds West to tell him what his father said; West is equally angry and insists he won’t be deterred – he doesn’t need his father’s permission to get married. But fate and tragedy intervene; West doesn’t meet with Sophie’s father, and not long afterwards, she marries someone else.

Seven years later, and Sophie has been a widow for almost as long as she was married. She and West move in the same circles and have mutual friends – his (late) best friend David was the brother of Jeremy, the Marquess of Willingham (To Marry and to Meddle) who is married to Sophie’s friend Diana – but they’ve taken care to treat each other like mere acquaintances and have never spoken about their past relationship. On the surface, there’s nothing keeping them from rekindling their romance should they wish, but there are a lot of strong feelings running beneath – guilt, resentment, anger, grief – that are easier to ignore than to address.

Then Sophie learns that her sister Alexandra – who, like her, is a widow – is likely to turn down a proposal of marriage from the man she loves because Alex doesn’t want Sophie to feel lonely or left out. Well. Sophie didn’t gave up her own chance at real happiness seven years earlier so her sisters could sacrifice themselves for her. If the only way she can make sure Alex accepts Lord Blackthorn’s proposal is by becoming engaged herself, then that’s what Sophie is going to do. Unfortunately, however, she knows only one man who a) is likely to go along with her scheme for a short-lived fake engagement and b) her family will find a believable choice as her partner in a whirlwind romance.

While West’s better judgement tells him it’s a bad idea, he agrees to go along with Sophie’s plan. All he’s ever wanted is her happiness, and if seeing Alex married is the way to do it, then he’ll do whatever he can to help. It’s clear he’s still in love with Sophie but is so wrapped up in layers of guilt and sorrow that he’s kind of stuck in place and unsure how to act around her. Sophie, meanwhile, has learned to present a face of supreme confidence and unflappability to everyone around her that is hard to penetrate. But with their ‘engagement’ providing an excuse for them to spend time together, they slowly begin to let the other in and to realise that while seven years have passed, the connection they felt to each other back then has never lessened or gone away. They have things they need to work through – and I liked that the author includes some flashback chapters here and there to fill out the backstory – and they have some very honest conversations about their feelings for one another – then and now – and about what they want.

West is a charming cinnamon roll hero - kind and funny with a dry sense of humour and so obviously head-over-heels for Sophie. I liked the way the two of them fall so easily back into their old patterns of teasing and banter – they really know how to push each other’s buttons – and the way West very quickly sets out to prove to Sophie that they are meant to be together, despite everything.

I enjoy second chance romances when they’re done well, and that’s definitely the case here. The chemistry between West and Sophie is electric and there’s just enough pining and angst to keep things interesting and moving at a fair clip. But then at around two-thirds of the way through, things start to flag and begin to feel a little repetitive – and that there is really only one thing keeping West and Sophie apart becomes glaringly apparent. And it’s the same thing that has been keeping them apart for the entire book – Sophie. Or, rather, Sophie’s tendency to think and act for others in what she believes is their best interest and without consulting them first. Even after West has made it very clear that he still loves her and wants to be with her, Sophie persists in trying to save him from himself – whether from his father’s threats (no surprises that the disapproving Duke still disapproves) or trying to save West from disappointment because she might not be able to bear children – but doesn’t explain why she’s refusing him. West eventually realises what she’s doing and that she’s doing it because she’s scared of being hurt; I was pleased that he calls her on it, but frustrated because she was willing to risk their happiness simply because she wouldn’t have a simple conversation.

That’s my only real complaint about the story and is the reason I couldn’t award To Woo and to Wed DIK status. There’s a great bunch of secondary characters here - mostly friends and family from the previous books – who bring a lot of warmth, humour and affection (and, sometimes, common sense!) to the story (I had to chuckle at the absurdity of the wedding plans) and the not-too-sweet epilogue rounds out the series nicely. Martha Waters is one of the few authors of historical romance whose books I still look forward to reading, and I’m eager to see what she comes up with next.[/wpv-autop]

Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : B+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : February 7, 2024

Publication Date: 02/2024

Recent Comments …

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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