Friday 3 March 2023

To Swoon and to Spar

Finished February 20
To Swoon and to Spar by Martha Waters

This historical romance novel is the fourth in the Regency Vows series, set around the same group of young aristocrats and upper class people living in the early 19th century. This book is the first that I've read in the series, and I was struck by the witty tone of the novel. It had me smiling often, and occasionally laughing aloud. 
The book opens with a tense scene with the two main characters looking for the source of a suspiciously ghost-like series of noises and then jumps back to a few months earlier. 
This book's male lead is Penvale, a viscount who has dreamed of regaining his family's ancestral home in Cornwall, Trethwick Abbey, ever since it was sold at his father's death. Penvale's paternal uncle bought it at the time, but the brothers were estranged and Penvale and his younger sister Diana were farmed out to family on their mother's side until they came of age. 
Penvale became a viscount as a child at the age of ten, and had grown up at Trethwick Abbey, and thus the dream of regaining the home had become a driving force for him. Since he'd moved to London to take his seat as a Lord after finishing at Oxford, Penvale has been investing the money he has won at the gaming table to rebuild his finances, hoping to convince his uncle to sell Trethwick Abbey back to him. As we discover, his uncle has approached him unexpectedly to sell the home to him, on one condition. That condition is that he marry his uncle's ward, Jane Spencer, a refined but untitled young woman of twenty-one. Penvale insists on meeting her first to ascertain that she isn't being coerced into this arrangement, but as we see from the prologue, wastes no time in going through with the marriage. 
Part of this story is told from Jane's point of view as we see how she has had a hand in bringing the opening circumstances about. Jane is not interested in a husband, but she loves the home, and enjoys the extensive library there. She sets in motion a plan to drive Penvale away through various happenings that indicate the house is haunted. But Penvale isn't that easy to scare away, and he instead tries to determine the cause of these odd events. 
As the two main characters spend time together at Trethwick Abbey as newlyweds, they begin to get to know each other slowly. Penvale spends a great deal of time getting to know the details of the estate, its finances, and his tenants and servants. Jane gradually ventures beyond the grounds of the Abbey and gets to know the wider community. I enjoyed watching them getting to know each other's secrets and quirks, and find themselves increasingly drawn to each other's company. I also appreciated Jane's enjoyment and curiosity when it came to reading. 
This is not your typical Regency romance, and I liked seeing how they defied the stereotypes and revealed some surprising pastimes. The writing is unexpected yet somehow perfect. The romance has underlying sexual tension and several surprising moments. If you like historical romance with believable characters and a bit of spice this series is for you. 

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