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The Regency Vows #1

To Have and to Hoax

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If you love Julia Quinn's Bridgerton , you won't want to miss Martha Waters' ingenious, laugh-out-loud and sweepingly romantic historical rom-com, To Have and to Hoax !

'Delights with hilarious, high-concept romantic schemes . . . this joyful, elegant romp is sure to enchant' Publishers Weekly, starred review

'A Regency author to watch. The sexual tension in this delightful debut was off-the-charts!' Lauren Layne

The course of true love - or irritation - never did run smooth.

Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and married.

Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.

Their once-passionate love may have dissolved into cold, detached politeness, but when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse, she races to be by his side - only to discover him alive, well, and baffled by her concern.

Outraged, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own to teach her estranged husband a lesson. And so begins an ever-escalating game of manipulation - and a great deal of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought.

In this warring marriage, which spouse will be the victor?

And will the real prize be winning back the love they each thought they'd lost?


'A laugh-out-loud Regency romp - if you loved the Bridgertons, you'll adore To Have and to Hoax !' Lauren Willig

' To Have and to Hoax is an authentic romantic comedy . . . This fun and fresh historical debut will delight readers with humor and romance as a young couple battles to win back each other's affection' Shelf Awareness

'Cleverly conceived and brilliantly executed debut is served up with an abundance of cheeky charm and wonderfully wry wit' Booklist, starred review

' Endlessly charming . . . absorbing and clever and at times laugh-out-loud funny ' Kate Clayborn

' To Have and to Hoax is a delightful battle of wits that's funny and touching all at once . James and Violet are perfectly matched, and you'll love watching the sparks fly as they both infuriate each other and fall in love all over again' Jen DeLuca

The Regency Vows series continues!
To Love and to Loathe
To Marry and to Meddle

370 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 7, 2020

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About the author

Martha Waters

6 books1,128 followers
Martha Waters is the author of To Have and to Hoax and To Love and to Loathe. She was born and raised in sunny South Florida and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. By day, she works as a children's librarian, and loves sundresses, gin cocktails, and traveling. Sign up for her newsletter for periodic book news and reading & travel recs: http://tinyletter.com/marthawaters

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,466 reviews
Profile Image for Anne.
3,917 reviews69.3k followers
June 22, 2021
Right off the bat, this looks like it would be really cute and funny!


The title, the description, and the cover ALL really sucked me in. Oh, haha! These two are going to badger each other with old-timey pranks, and won't that be so different and hilarious?!
I was ready to fall in love with these guys.


And maybe that's why I was disappointed.
The expectations were a little too high?
Regardless, this one was just ok for me. It wasn't funny. There wasn't any snappy dialogue or witty back and forth. In fact, the heroine was kind of stupid.
Violet decides to make James think she has consumption as part of a ridiculous revenge scheme after he falls off a horse. She gets the help of an aristocrat who has become an actor. <--go with it, I know it makes zero sense.
He's supposed to pretend he's her doctor, but he leaves her husband with his real card so the guy knows what is going on.


Her idiotic plan ticks off her husband, so the entire book is one long unfunny joke of her coughing and him not at all fooled by it, and getting more pissed by the day. By the time she figures out that he knows what she's up to, it is way past time and not at all humorous.


The backstory is that after a forced marriage they fell very much in love. Then after a couple of blissful years, there was some secret falling out. And you spend the rest of the book wondering what happened.
When you finally do find out what happened, you're highly annoyed with James AND Violet - mainly because her side of the story could have been easily verified by several people.
It could have all been fixed with a conversation. WITH ANYONE.
He's just...bah. There's a misunderstanding and then there's that over-the-top, soap opera level of mistrust. It doesn't make sense.
And the back and forth between these two at the end was very much ridiculous.
She wants him to come back, then he comes back, then he doesn't tell her everything, then she tells him to leave and not come back till he knows that he loves/trusts her, but he already loves/trusts her - now he's gotta proooooove it. Etc., etc., etc..


I mean, this isn't bad. I thought it was a solid 3 star story.
But it's not funny and there's no hoaxing happening.

Oh, I nearly forgot! But I would definitely NOT recommend the audio version. The male narrator's voice sounds like a parody of a snobby British voice. There's absolutely no way I could imagine this man as attractive in my head when all I'm seeing is Austin Powers.


Anais Inara Chase - Narrator
Joel Froomkin - Narrator
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,195 reviews40.6k followers
July 10, 2021
This one is fun, entertaining, quick, hilarious, feel-good reading!

I know so well that:

The characters were so obnoxious, immature, spoiled brats acting like underage, sabotaging their relationship over and over and at least hundred times, I want to bang their heads into each other and scream their faces to kiss and make up! But I loved their story, the hot chemistry, witty dialogues, intriguing pacing. So their childish manners can be tolerable!

The couple’s silent treatment ends with faking sickness games and yes, it was quite fun but the thing I didn’t understand why the author made us too long to learn how they broke up. At least I read more than half of the book but I was still in the dark. I wanted to know how they ruined everything and their reasoning. I didn’t want to pick a side because I know both of the parties have great potential to make meaningless mistakes and at some I wanted to yell and drop the book because of way too much drama!

You know what I keep reading because it is still attention worthy, making me joyful and never ending flirting waltz of the couple and amazing side characters are the best things about this book defeated the negative effects it created on my mind.

So my 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I haven’t read a historical rom-com for so long. It was interesting, exhilarating journey for me even though characters pissed me hell of more than several times.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for sharing this witty ARC with me in exchange my honest review.

Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,051 reviews49k followers
January 7, 2021
maybe it's because i'm reading both books for a video, but this is a less funny and less interesting historical version of You Deserve Each Other.

i love that there are more romances lately that focus on married couples, because it's a slightly fresh take for the genre. but this didn't work for me. i can get past miscommunication when it's a build of misunderstanding someone's feelings but this was just one poorly communicated encounter that led to the characters not talking for 4 years.

and there wasn't much in the way of messing with each other. the premise of this book made me think it was going to be some grand game, but there was one weak attempt at a "hoax" involving a fake illness and... that's about it. bleh.
Profile Image for Olive Fellows (abookolive).
582 reviews4,713 followers
June 3, 2021
The two main characters of this romance, Violet and James are a married couple, but have been estranged ever since they had a huge argument years ago. But after Violet gets a scare that makes her realize she may still care about her husband, she decides to play a trick on James by faking an illness, so he, too, can know what it's like to worry about your estranged spouse.

I absolutely loved this book. I think the emotional inner lives of the main characters were so realistic - their past hurts haunt them and control their behavior until they get a grip on that pain.

I gushed about this book over on Booktube!
February 17, 2021

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TO HAVE AND TO HOAX gave me a veritable rollercoaster ride of reactions. When I picked this book up, I was like, "Wow, this is so witty and well-written, I can't believe it has such a low rating!" And then I was like, "Okay, this pranking is a little silly and I'm really curious what they were fighting about, and it's more witty than ha ha funny, but I'm still feeling it." And then I was like, "Okay, FINALLY! A kiss!" And then I was like, "But seriously, why are you still fighting? Literally no emotional progress has been made and we're over half-way through the book." And then I was like, "Three quarters of the book and I still want to shake you people and ask why your mother never taught you how to love (dee dee dee dee dee dee)." And then I got to the end of the book and was very, very tired.

This is the story of James and Violet. They were married because Violet was compromised on a balcony (ironically, with a different man-- James was only there to step in as rescuer). Since they both had an instant chemistry with witty banter, neither of them particularly minded this and it was a happy marriage-- until it wasn't. After something Violet refers to as The Argument, they both basically stopped speaking to one another unless absolutely necessary, neither of them willing to cross the deep freeze of their own home because that would be a violation of the Stiff Upper Lip Act of 1386 or something. I don't know.

The pranking really isn't as prevalent or pervasive as the summary led me to believe. The bulk of this book is the couple missing each other and arguing and dancing around the Big Misunderstanding (which made sense what I learned what it was but was still disappointing because they IMMEDIATELY repeat their mistakes after they finally talk about it and start fighting again over very similar pretenses). I buddy read this with my friend Heather, and she brought up a very good point, I thought, that a lot of what the couple has is purely physical-based. They don't have much of an emotional connection, apart from an apparent fetish for bickering that easily gets out of hand and turns nasty (and no, not in a fun way). So without that trust, I guess it makes sense why jest quickly turns to emotional daggers, but at the same time, this is never really met with closure. Even James's major grovel is a grand gesture DONE BEHIND VIOLET'S BACK which she has made it clear she has an issue with, so it's like he's hearing her, but he's also not really hearing her if you know what I mean. What a disaster.

The sex scenes in this book were quite hot and it was written with a breezy, bantery style that kind of reminded me of Tessa Dare's, but the constant cheeky winks to the reader and the fact that so many of these arguments quickly became tiresome and circuitous made this a wearing read. I'm interested in the sequels featuring the other couples-- especially West's book, I loved him-- but I wouldn't read this again and I can finally understand why so many people met this with a rather lukewarm response.

3 stars
Profile Image for Alexis Hall.
Author 50 books10.8k followers
December 11, 2020
This fucking delighted me – and served as a much needed antidote for 2020.

It’s a self-consciously frivolous (but still depthy) Regency an absurd plot and an archness of tone that really worked for me. There’s something slightly Wildean about it: artful silliness.

The basic deal is that the hero and heroine married in haste, after being caught on a balcony together in the dark. But it was still—against all the odds—a love match. Flash forward four years, though, and Something Has Gone Very Wrong TM. The chilly stalemate comes to an end when the hero is flung off a horse and doesn’t think to inform his wife, which is one just one hurt too many. And she decides to pay him back for his intention by … uh. Pretending to have consumption?
And don’t get me wrong. This is the daftest premise. Although it does trigger an escalating game of daftness one uppersonship between James and Violet has they’re both forced to confront the fact that they’re still very much in love but have no idea how to communicate nor to resolve The Issue that drove them apart four years ago.

Now I will say your mileage might very here based on your patience level for central conflict that could be resolved by one honest conversation. It’s not, as a general rule, one of my favourite tropes but it genuinely didn’t frustrate me here. I think, like anything, these things are about how you do them. But it also helps that all the characters are super self-aware about what’s going on: Violet and James always see straight through each other’s schemes, Viola quickly realizes she’s just desperate for her husband’s attention after four years of stain, and their mutual friends spend a lot of time encouraging them just to *talk to each other*. Basically, it feels knowing in every possible direction: there are no dupes or victims here, with the reader as much a part of the games as the rest of the cast.

By the *very end*, when there were a couple of further miscommunications, I was just edging into “I think I might want to shake you now” territory, but it was a very mild shaking. I ended up really loving both Violet and James, even when they were behaving like absolute fools, although Violet ended up feeling slightly minimised by the end of the book because she turned out to be so much better at navigating her own bullshit than James. Whereas James had a lot to unravel and think about and worked on – and while it was really good to see him doing that work, it didn’t leave Violet with much to *do* in the story. Except wait for James to get his act together.

I was also slightly nervous of the Big Conflict Of Four Years Ago: after all, if it was too easily resolved, it would have made the whole book feel like a waste of time, but if it was too serious it would have been a massive tonal shift from the careful lightness of the story of a whole. My feeling was that this tightrope was mostly successfully walked, which I found an impressive piece of narrative control. Although I do feel four years is an incredibly long time to exist in an estranged marriage. I mean, I’ve lived through half a year of a pandemic and I feel completely ground down and ancient. I don’t know if … how … you could reconcile something after such a lot of pain and mistrust. I mean, I’m not saying I didn’t buy the HEA—I felt it was well-won, but I think I accepted it on an emotional level (because I wanted it) more than a rational one (because four years!). Also, sorry to be really incredibly shallow, but that is four years. Without sex of any kind. For both of them. HOW?

I assume the next books are going to focus on Violet’s two friends, which I’m pretty excited for. Something else I really appreciated about THATH was the vibrancy of the supporting cast. Except … I was kind of disproportionately into West for his page count. He just seemed really interesting, and interestingly tormented. BOOK FOR WEST?

In any case, highly recommended if you’re cool with the “can’t you just blood talk to each other” trope.
Profile Image for Aoife - Bookish_Babbling.
297 reviews310 followers
July 14, 2022

No thanks to the MCs tho, gosh could I not stand those two spoiled, pompous ridiculous babies!
Having somehow forgotten to reread the synopsis before my trigger-finger slipped on the one-click-buy option after seeing it was just over $2 in the kindle store - I missed the glaring hiccup highlighting one of my least favourite romcom tropes right there in the blurb...LYING 🤮
Okay, so I know the clue is in the title "Hoax" and I should have known better. I guess I was just uncomfortable with the magnitude of the lie & what it could have meant. Her deceit is no joking matter in rl, but this is fiction and I deffo shouldn't take it so seriously but it still affected my enjoyment somewhat - so here we are 😊

However this being a period piece, my need for silly romcom reads rn & a delightful cast of supporting characters alongside the admittedly funny carry on in their battle of wills kept me reading while rolling my eyes at the MCs themselves...yeah I know I'm weird 🙃 whaddya gonna do? 🤷‍♀️

For anyone who has ever seen the Friends episode where the infamous "they don't know that we know they know we know they know" makes an appearance, this book plays with similar back and forth games of one-upmanship (Penvale = Joey) & does provide entertaining shenanigans set in 1800s English High Society with some steamy scenes tossed in to seal the deal.

I might have warmed more to the MCs if the prologue had been longer or if we'd seen some of their early marital interactions so that we could have gotten a better feel for their relationship and for the main characters themselves before the bitterness set in. I did enjoy their first interaction and was really looking forward to getting to know them & seeing them get to know one another. But by the time we settle into the first chapter the MCs already had my back up and my eyes rolling.
And why did we have to wait so long to find out why they fell out in the first place?

What I really enjoyed alongside the cheeky old-timey proper English mannerisms when conversing, *lol* I'm totally going to work "Indeed" more resolutely into my everyday vernacular 🤣; were the supporting characters, in no particular order, this lot were such a fun crew & I not so secretly want each of the main gang to get their own spin-off and pretty please do read this book for this bunch of meddling misfits.

Wooton 👍
Julian Belfry ✔🤣
West, Penvale, Jeremy, Emily even Diana and especially Sophie = top notch friends. I lost count of the amount of times they asked/encouraged these two loggerheads to talk to one another - eurgh anyone who has read a "review" of mine before knows how I feel about lack of communication 🤗
These friends were absolute saints for witnessing the shenanigans and believing in the two knuckleheads.

A propos of nothing really but how on earth does Violet not know how to pour tea? I don't drink tea but I can make it and pour it...it's really not that difficult!
Fine she's upper class or whatever, but seriously lady it's not hard if this is honestly how you spend your afternoons how can you not be better at pouring liquid through a spout? 🤔

Also how many times are we told they are English and cannot possibly spew feelings - honestly stereotypical much? Admittedly the stiff upper lip & mannerisms were part of what I really enjoyed alongside the cheeky turns of phrase but the repetitive self-reflective "un-English'ness" became grating.
Which brings me to a bugbear of mine when reading period pieces set in GB can we please not use Americanised spelling those z are really distracting 😅 ... and would they really call one another out for "being an ass" in 1800s London?
I seriously doubt it 🙁

This is deffo a me issue with the MCs & I totally hold my hands up, mea culpa, for not having reread the blurb before picking this up - but I do love a period setting with their mannerisms and cheeky way of talking amongst friends & honestly guys I got such a kick out of these supporting characters 🤩
And despite not enjoying the MCs themselves; their who knows what game, the resulting conversations & sniping were entertaining in how they were written for the time period. I did find myself ridiculously giggling at their shenanigans hence 3.5*

This was still a fun read and I would not be at all mad if any or all of the side characters got their own spin offs if only because between Alison Goodman's Lady Helen series & Evie Dunmore's A League of Extraordinary Women series I am such a sucker for 1800s Great Britain and the stiff upper-lip'ness of it all ROFL

I NEED MOAR - pretty please leave suggestions in the comments 😇
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
838 reviews3,755 followers
March 18, 2021

Well, that was rather ridiculous. I don't understand these people. I have no clue why they argued over nothing again at the end. Literally no clue. I love lovers to enemies to lovers, especially with estranged spouses but when you're seeking arguments this much, for YEARS, over bloody nothing, you have no business being a couple. I'm serious. Do everyone a favor and let it go already.

In my opinion this particular trope works if :
- the main characters separated because of a real, inextricable issue, and haven't seen each other for years (see: Daring and the Duke) or
- the main characters have been arguing for months - the key word being months, not bloody years (see: You Deserve Each Other)
- there's groveling/or at least some kind of evolution at some point!!! The characters need to make me believe in their relationship, damn it!

In To Have and to Hoax, it doesn't work. I'm sorry but the whole thing doesn't make any sense? So you're telling me that the main characters have lived with each other for FOUR YEARS without addressing the issue when *one* adult conversation would have solved the problem ? It's pushing the miscommunication plot point waaaay too far in my opinion. Plus the "hoax" part is nonsensical, and drags for sooooo long: you see, they STILL go on when they KNOW that the other KNOWS they're faking it. This is actually a quote from the book :

-and instantly, he knew.
He knew that she knew.
Or rather, he knew that she knew that he knew.

Sure, it's written to be humorous, but given that it's 59% already, and that they're going to argue over nothing for the next 30%, I'm not feeling really entertained. I have a fucking HEADACHE born from the intense frustration. At some point a secondary character tells them that they're behaving like children, and I felt quite vindicated at first because seriously!!!! - but actually, no : a child would never act this way. A child would look squarely into your eyes and ask why you're angry and still pretending that your wife is sick when you know she's pretending to be sick. Only (annoying) adults would go this far.

The only reason it doesn't get 1 star is the writing, that I found rather nice. I will give this author another chance, but not one more.

It would mean the world to me if you'd visit my new blog!
Profile Image for Samantha.
1,674 reviews81 followers
February 24, 2020
Welcome, welcome, right this way! Step right up to witness endless, inane bickering between adult characters with the emotional maturity of middle schoolers.

Violet and James Auden were happily married until they weren’t. After an argument about a year into their marriage (that goes unexplained until about halfway through the book), they barely speak to one another for the next four years.

That’s where our story truly begins, and what follows is an endless game of emotional chess between the spouses. Except that they both play chess like the proverbial kid who eats the pieces.

Violet and her friends cook up schemes to inflict upon James, all designed to somehow simultaneously piss him off and win him back. The ladies fancy themselves “outspoken,” “progressive,” and all sorts of other buzzwords that should indicate a desire to break with convention. Unfortunately, they mostly come off as desperate and juvenile.

We’re supposed to believe that these women are admirably unconventional and ahead of their time because they speak their minds and claim they don’t want men dictating their lives. Yet in all that speaking of the minds, the only thing they ever talk about is men.

While I admire Violet’s desire not to be cowed by convention that would suggest her presence in the world should be largely ornamental, most of her boldness takes the form of childish, foot-stomping tantrums, shrill declarations of revenge, and attempts at manipulation. Violet claims she doesn’t want to be ruled by a man, but men are the only things she ever seems focus her attention on.

It’s a cute attempt at protofeminism, but the result is exactly the opposite of that. The heroine fancies herself empowered and as defying convention, but really she’s just louder about her conventional thinking. She thinks herself a rogue of the status quo, but she’s simply immature and undisciplined.

Though he too has plenty of flaws and also lacks emotional maturity, her husband is in many ways better at conveying an attitude of progressiveness than his wife. And while he can be thoughtless and clearly has a paralyzing fear of honest communication, in the end he’s really a pretty alright dude.

Which is great and all, except that Violet was supposed to be the hero of this story. James is an emotional toddler almost as much as she is, but at least he mostly maintains a sense of decency.

And yet, the really tough part of this book to swallow is how careless Violet and James are about how their petty desire to constantly one-up each other consistently disregards the feelings of other people. Sophie and West (who are, not coincidentally, the only truly decent people in the book) get the worst of it, but it comes back on the other friends of the couple as well, all of whom are (whatever their flaws may be) far better humans than the characters in the central relationship. Certainly, they don’t mean to hurt others, but their selfishness (especially Violet’s) has that result just the same.

This is not to say that the reader will hate Violet. I didn’t. But I did find her obnoxious more often than not, and her behavior is cringeworthy most of the time. Did she capital “L” Learn A Lesson? Of course she did, because narrative structure dictates she must. But in the end, it isn’t enough.

This wasn’t a bad idea for a book, but the intent and the product are a complete mismatch. At the very least it should have passed muster as a light, cute romance, but the tone is too grating and the characters too emotionally stunted for that to play satisfactorily either.

*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,075 reviews13.3k followers
April 7, 2020
I am a huge historical romance fan and this cover definitely caught my eye. This sounded like it was going to be an adorable romance between a bickering married couple and I was excited to read their story.

When this started, I thought the romance was so cute. Something had happened four years ago, one year into their marriage, that caused Violet and James to hate each other and barely speak to each other. When Violet gets a letter that James is hurt and might never wake up, she freaks out and jumps to be by his side. When he recovers quite quickly, they're both mad at each other for their reactions, which sparks the need to toy with each other for the rest of the book. Their banter was cute, but I do wish that we knew what caused their rift a bit earlier on. It was some big mystery as to why they both felt betrayed and we didn't get the reasoning until well into the story.

As James and Violet continue to play games with each other, I definitely became annoyed by how much they refused to talk to each other. If they just had a conversation four years ago on the night they argued, this whole book would have been avoided. The rest of this book only continues because they just won't have an honest conversation with one another. If you do not like the miscommunication trope, you are going to be annoyed reading this. At the end of the book, everything wrapped up a little too neatly as both characters had their confrontations with people who have wronged them and it felt too forced for me.

While this was a cute story in the beginning, the middle and the end of this story more annoyed me than not and I just wanted the characters to talk already. Sadly, this one wasn't as endearing as I wanted it to be.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,556 reviews3,763 followers
March 10, 2020
Oh man, I'm so excited to see more books from this author come out! The writing in this book is truly a joy- grade A banter, lovely turns of phrase, wonderful little observations throughout. I also just loved the characters, and I appreciate that this has almost a YA type theme underlying it-- separation from parents' and their expectations to forge their own identities & sense of self. I offer this comparison with trepidation, but this book gave me very strong Tessa Dare vibes- I will be eager to see how the author continues to develop. Perhaps I've found a new favorite historical romcom source?
This is a situation similar to how I felt with The Bromance Book Club last year- very excited to try more in a series, but the particular trope/plot combos in this book are not quite my full catnip, so I couldn't fully love this the way I might with a different premise. Marriage in peril, even when approached with as light a touch as this one was, are just a bit stressful to me
Still, I'm 100% checking for Martha Waters going forward, & would recommend this to anyone who is interested in it
Profile Image for Rayne ♥.
197 reviews39 followers
April 18, 2021
Diana sagged. “Morals,” she said simply. “So tiresome.”

To Have and to Hoax is witty, smart and charming as a whole, filled to the brim with revenge schemes and intriguing characters that made this a page-turner for me. The premise is intriguing, it’s about a married couple who are plagued by misunderstandings, which eventually leads to a cruel (and hilarious) game that threatens to tear them apart.

This book is filled with wonderful writing that flows perfectly, and characters that feel so real it’s marvellous. I loved the witty banter in this book, I found myself laughing and smiling a whole lot while reading this. I find that most books that brand themselves as romantic comedies usually come off as forced, but certainly not with this book. It was genuinely funny and I highlighted an unhealthy amount of passages while reading (some that may have been a page-long or so).

The characters that graced the pages were just so wonderful and I haven’t felt this amused by dialogue alone since reading The Raven Boys. The characters felt very real and I loved learning more about them and their backgrounds.

Overall, I highly reccomend this novel. It’s engaging, funny, and delivers a punch. I’m hoping the author may bless me with a sequel including any one of the side characters.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for providing me with a review copy. All opinions are my own.

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Profile Image for menna.
316 reviews288 followers
August 11, 2020
ive never wanted to knock two people's head against each other more than in this book (in a loving way)
Profile Image for Blackjack.
422 reviews143 followers
April 22, 2020
Some smooth writing and likeable secondary characters couldn't save this book from itself, and that's even while I smiled every time I encountered the nostalgic reference to the Friends' episode, "he knew that she knew that he knew." The premise here of a young married couple pranking and one-upping each other in an effort to get even for perceived neglect was initially amusing but grew very tiresome, and pretty quickly. I went into this one open-minded having just had an unexpected blast reading Sarah Hogle's bittersweet but utterly romantic You Deserve Each Other, but with each chapter I become more and more frustrated. Note to readers: very little changes in this book until 94% and so be prepared for a story that spends nearly the entire novel mired in misunderstandings and self-righteousness.

In the prologue, Violet and James fall in love instantly at a ball and subsequently marry. Fast forward four years later as they reflect back on a fractious and rocky start in an otherwise passionate union, they know just when the relationship went off its track, and that one moment comes to define four years of cold war - yes, Four Years. For four years, we are meant to believe that the two live in the same house and do not speak. I obviously had trouble reconciling a four-year silent roommate situation, but once I found out the reason why they stopped speaking, I lost much of my interest in the book. Part of the book is about understanding the mental harm both characters experienced growing up with negligent and even emotionally abusive parents and how such experiences challenged their ability to form healthy and mature adult relationships rooted in trust. So, there's that. It's not a theme I'm crazy about and one that feels quite over done in romances, but it's meant to explain the actions two immature people play on the one person in their life they should love and trust.

The other major aspect of this novel focuses on a series of pranks and retributions Violet and James enact to slap back at each other. At times it seems as if they are just striking out, but at other times, they seem aware that they want the attention of the other, even if it's negative attention. Some of the pranks are amusing but there were moments when I was reaching to find my sense of humor and struggling. For instance, James's open flirtation with another woman in society to make his wife jealous was a particularly difficult scene. Violet feels humiliated and most everyone else feels either uncomfortable or titillated by the scandal they are witnessing. Several key people later try to explain separately to James that it wasn't the thing to humiliate one's wife in public or to risk harming the reputation of another woman. This entire episode in the book reminds me why I love the concept of the hero in romances and why I disliked James. Most romance heroes stop short of hurting innocent bystanders for selfish reasons, and most heroes don't want to humiliate the woman they love in front of others. Furthermore, most heroes have a degree of emotional intelligence that clarifies their actions. That brings me to a somewhat bigger problem with this book, which is that even though Violet and James behave equally stupidly and immaturely at times, James is an especially difficult character to reform. He's wrong nearly all the time and there is not parity in their grievances. The misunderstanding that separates them for Four Years is mainly his fault. I felt sympathy at times for Violet, therefore, and I can't honestly say that I'm entirely satisfied with a HEA for this couple.

The book is filled with some appealing secondary characters and there are clear signs of where some future romances are heading. I'm giving it a generous 3 stars because of appealing secondary characters. However, I initially thought I would want to read future books from Waters but given in the end how little I enjoyed this one, it's unlikely now.
Profile Image for ✨ A ✨ .
427 reviews1,698 followers
May 18, 2023
So i was told this was You Deserve Other but make it ✨regency✨…And it kind of was.

For the most part i enjoyed it, it was funny and entertaining and did what it needed to do.

However the writing felt so modern it kind of took me out of the story. I also wasnt very invested in violet and james, so it got annoying the longer their conflict carried on.

I like how things were resolved and i might just pick up the next book 🤞🏼
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 58 books8,105 followers
June 7, 2022
Regency romcom. The plot here very much depends on privileged adults behaving like petulant children (which is a point forcibly made to the protagonists by various friends). Not my favourite thing, but humour is subjective, and it's executed with great verve and commitment. For me, the book took off when both MCs started to engage with the issues between them and particularly when the hero got his head out of his arse.

I did like that the fault was so very much on the hero's side, due to his refusal to engage with feelings or face up to his flaws and failings. It felt realistic given his position/gender. That said, I would also have fully supported the heroine in dumping the moody git and running away with the much cooler theatre owner.

Pacing was a little slow, in part because of the plethora of secondary characters lining up for their own books (though I would be here for theatre guy's story so there you go, it worked).
Profile Image for Chris  C - A Midlife Wife.
1,506 reviews269 followers
January 24, 2020
I liked the story but the game playing really got to be too much. Plus I hated that James had to be groveling when she was waaaay more involved in the crap than he.
This book sounded like a great deal of fun and I was excited to get into it. It started out in a fabulous way and I just loved the two of them together. I was sure they were going to be a wonderful pair!

However, sooner than later, it turned into a grudge fest and the games began. In many aspects this book frustrated me. Although it was fun and tongue in cheek in many ways, when you find out that it had been going on for 4 out of the 5 years they had been married, I was actually sad they had wasted such a beautiful time in their marriage.

The supporting friends were a great addition to the story and each had their hand in the mess along with calling out the duo in their dumb, immature games. The parents… ugh is all I have to say.

Most of the story is dedicated to different ways to mess with each other and I really did not love the fact that James was made out to be the bad guy when she clearly had a huge part in the entire issue.

Don’t get me wrong, overall the story is a wild and wacky story that is loaded with sexual tension as they really do love each other immensely. I wish we could have gotten more of the loving and less of the game playing. A nice balance would have brought this to a 5 star rating.

Fun, witty, and a fabulous first novel. But seriously – get a different cover that is not so boring.

* Copy received for review consideration
full review - https://amidlifewife.com/to-have-and-...
Profile Image for Leslie.
1,127 reviews228 followers
May 1, 2021
Ok, I contemplated not writing anything or even rating this book. I didn’t want to be Miss Negative Nellie. So I sat on it for a day and decided I gotta write something because I’m still annoyed and disappointed.

I initially felt so darn positive and happy when I started this. It seemed like I had found a historical m/f I would love. The dialogue was sparkling and snappy. The banter was on point. The sexual tension was off the charts. I mentally pre-ordered all future books in the series. I read it during all work breaks and barricaded myself in my room to read it, ignoring people and responsibilities. That last part might not be that unusual. 😬😂

Halfway through, disappointment set in. Because these two main characters had tricked me. They were actually immature...idiots. 😭

The reason for their feud was revealed. My eyes rolled. THIS was why they were fighting for four years? Their current day pranks on each other started to bore me and my eyes grew tired from rolling.

Bosom obsessed James and chiseled jaw addict Violet went back and forth between panting after the other and reaching new levels of silliness in their, “war.” Then, when they finally reconciled, the dreaded misunderstanding happened, bringing more exasperation.


I’m not a complete book grump. I swear.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,578 reviews400 followers
June 24, 2020
Ahhhhhhrrrrrrrrgggggg, damn publishers. I never thought I'd think longingly of the days when romance novels mostly sported bare chested men and well-endowed women but at least you knew you were getting a trashy romance novel.
This year I just keep falling for wonderful covers and delightful premises only to discover halfway through that I've landed myself in yet another novel with explicit sex scenes. (And honestly, maybe even that wouldn't be so bad if the sex scenes weren't all so predictable. You can almost time it.)

I think I'm especially disappointed in this one because I had such high hopes from the start. An estranged couple pranking one another instead of having a conversation about the unhealthy state of their relationship? Sign me up.
I checked basically every other day for two months waiting for my library to get a copy.
I thought I'd get a romantic comedy. But this book wasn't funny. And despite the promising introduction, it wasn't that romantic either. It was hot and heavy lust-fueled attraction with the quintessential secondary characters scattered around to set up for future novels.
The main couple talks frequently of their affection for one another, but outside of sexual attraction and some predictable trust issues, very little relationship bleeds through.

I guess as far as writing goes, this book was better than most. I felt some level of affection for the main couple and am curious about how future romances between the secondary characters will play out. But mostly I feel cheated because I was lured here under false pretenses. Someone put a highlander on the cover already!
Profile Image for Leo.
4,300 reviews384 followers
December 19, 2022
I'm in quite a romance mood at the moment and thought the series looked fun but I wasn't expecting that I would enjoy it as much. It was a bid ridiculous at times but an easy enjoyable read. Intrigued to get to the next one
Profile Image for Annette.
763 reviews335 followers
February 21, 2020
1812, In Regency England Lady Violet Grey is 18 years old “with a respectable fortune and unimpeachable bloodline” and quite curious in nature. Warned by her mother that her curiosity would only ruin her.

It seems as her ruining process starts with Jeremy Overington, Marquess of Willingham and “notorious rakehell.” Before she knows, his mouth is covering hers. Then over the Marquess’ shoulder, she sees the most handsome man she’d ever seen. In “a shaft of light,” she recognizes the handsome face to belong to Lord James Audley, the second son of the Duke of Dovington.

1817, Violet Audley has been married for 5 years and estranged from her husband for 4 years. Her consolation are her two friends, Diana and Emily. While having tea with her friends, Violet receives a message informing her of her husband’s fall from a horse.

Afterwards, Violet with her friends plot different scenarios to attract Violet’s husband back to her.

I knew this was going to be a frivolous read and I picked this book for its humor. The prose and humor are superb. This part deserves 5 stars.

However, the plotting and the game between husband and wife get tiring. After a while, it’s like – come on, enough is enough. I understand we’re dealing with aristocrats, who have plenty of time for such games, but still I couldn’t take it after a while. The plot gets 3 stars. And I think this book would do much better as a novella.

So how do you rate phenomenal prose and humor, but annoying plot? Compromise is 4 stars.

Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,211 reviews133 followers
June 21, 2022

What started as mildly clever turned silly and dull. It may just be me.
Profile Image for Lily Herman.
543 reviews572 followers
May 21, 2020
Me: *has a million books to read in like 27 different genres*
Also me: *picks up 83rd historical romance this week*

I definitely need to broaden my horizons here, but that can wait for another day. Martha Waters' To Have and to Hoax was a super cute and breezy historical rom-com, and I really enjoyed every second of it. I'm a huge fan of second-chance love, particularly with married couples, so obviously this book was the perfect pick.

I'm not exactly sure if I believe that a relatively simple argument led to four years of marital estrangement, but I was willing to go along with it because the banter in this book was so good. Things got a little repetitive towards the end, but I had fun regardless.

If you need some escapism right about now, To Have and to Hoax is a great option!
Profile Image for Chloe Liese.
Author 18 books6,518 followers
December 14, 2020
This was fun as well as full of really strong character interiority and growth. From a hoax/prank war type deal it was a bit more tame and conversation-heavy than action-oriented which to me didn’t raise the stakes quite like I expected, but I still found this very enjoyable. I got really invested in the friend circle, and I’m totally wanting West’s book. Just sayin’
Profile Image for jess ✨.
114 reviews28 followers
October 28, 2019
To Have and to Hoax would be the kind of book that in normal circumstances would annoy me beyond reason. Main characters acting in a very childish way, refusing to sit down and talk even though this would solve things so quickly (but there would also not be a book to read, of course) but this was not the case.

The main reason I enjoyed and had such a good time with this book was that was incredibly self-aware. Both main characters were extremely immature, especially once they started their "duel", as Violet herself named, one trying to one up the other and come out on top, of whom would piss off their spouse the most. But the difference between this book and the usual lack of communication in romance is that it didn't ever not go unchallenged. 

The main characters would be constantly called out about their lack of communication, childish behavior and petty fights by everyone surrounding them. Their friends made sure to let them know often just how they were acting in a very immature way and as a married couple they should sit down and talk it out. Their behavior, as hilarious as it was more often than not was shown as something that deep down wasn't okay and this made the whole difference.

Another factor in making this story so good was that it had such genuinely funny and witty bickering. Violet and James had so much chemistry even whilst they were trying to one up the other, the sexual tension whenever they would argue was off the charts. 

You just wanted to sit them down and tell them how stupid they were being and also just tell them to kiss already!

This wasn't perfect though. At some point the drama became too much, dragging out and being boring. And it does make you wonder how long their relationship would truly last if after one huge fight it means 4 years of ignoring each other, but here's for hoping. This didn't take the enjoyment of the story as a whole but I think it could do with a tiny bit of less drama at a certain point.

I'm going to guess this will eventually be a series, seeing as there were three different couples being set up during this one. Would be nice to read about the side characters, which were interesting and with their own personalities, no one felt like were the exact same. 


I had a great time and laughed out loud often reading this. Recommend it for a fun, quick and delightful read.

I was provided an ARC via Edelweiss Plus in exchange of an honest review.
Profile Image for Mary.
1,473 reviews496 followers
April 6, 2020
Song/s the book brought to mind: Dreams by The Cranberries

If you are looking for a lighthearted historical romance that reads like a romcom, then To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters is the debut novel for you!

This is my first foray into historical romance and I quite enjoyed it! The bickering between our couple, James and Violet, was very entertaining and this book is laugh out loud funny. I loved Violet's sarcasm and quick wit, and I was laughing before page 8. I was having a hard time concentrating on reading but To Have and to Hoax was exactly what I needed to reset and refocus. I had completely forgotten it is set in the 1800s, so it was a fun surprise when I realized that again. I haven't read much at all set in the time period, and I liked learning a little bit more about it.

It has to be said that I also love the cover of the book. It is very simple which I love, and I like the nod to a lot of the contemporary romance covers out right now. Looking at the cover you may not know it is a historical romance and I love that about it. I think the purple cover would make it a great addition to anyone's bookshelf.

To Have and to Hoax had plenty of sexual tension and a couple steamy scenes but they were definitely on the tame side which I like. There are so many great characters in here and I would love to see another book focusing on any or all of them.

The only reason I set my rating at a 4 instead of a 5 is because I thought the game playing went on a little too long and the book could have been shorter. Overall though To Have and to Hoax was a great debut novel and it had 2 elements I really love - it felt like a quick read (and probably will be for most readers), and it made me laugh more times than I can count. I will definitely read any other books Waters writes!

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advance review copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

My full blog tour post can be seen at: https://abookwormwithwine.wordpress.c...
Profile Image for Kelsey.
179 reviews12 followers
April 14, 2020
I thought for sure that I would love this one, but while the premise is excellent, the execution left me frustrated. If you don't like books where the two main characters cannot communicate and could resolve the issue with an honest conversation, you'll likely be frustrated too.
Violet and James met, fell in love, and married very quickly. After a blissful first year of marriage, they get into a quite stupid argument where James believes that Violet had manipulated him into marriage and Violet gets angry because of James' fixation on proving himself to his father. They do not talk or resolve the issue for four years, which seemed a bit excessive to me. When James falls from his horse, a friend sends Violet a note implying that James might die, and when Violet rushes to James and finds him alive and well, she decides to get revenge on James by pretending . Both James and Violet get into a game of trying to outdo one another, which brings them closer than they have been in years.
Quite frankly, both James and Violet annoyed me. How can you go four years without talking? One conversation could have resolved their issues, and they wasted four years being mad and stupid. Also, Violet's anger and her reaction were inexcusable. It is not okay to joke about . I thought the jokes would be lighthearted and funny, but Violet took it too far. There were funny moments, yes, but it wasn't enough to redeem how juvenile all the characters were.
Profile Image for Namera [The Literary Invertebrate].
1,192 reviews2,920 followers
February 8, 2021
3.5 stars, rounded up.

I can see everyone falling all over themselves to love this book: it's witty and polished, quite highly entertaining - Austenesque without reaching the dizzyingly humorous heights of Heyer - and, to my astonishment, there wasn't A SINGLE HISTORICAL INACCURACY I COULD SPOT. Yes, indeed. I'm a stickler for the accuracy, and Martha Waters clearly knows her stuff.

The plot, though, is kind of stupid. It's all about two characters who married young and still love each other, but four years ago a misunderstanding drove them apart. I don't mind that. What I mind is THEY BASICALLY HAVEN'T SPOKEN TO EACH OTHER FOR FOUR YEARS!! If I argue with one of my friends, we usually make up inside of four DAYS. I can't imagine living in the same house as your husband and not reconciling for so long. What a waste of time. What idiotic characters. There are no OM or OW during the separation, safety gang friends, so all good in that regard.

The hero Lord James is very much a beta - things tend to happen to him, he doesn't tend to make them happen. Lady Violet is a bit more energetic but unfortunately, she's immature as hell. If the book had been any longer, this rating would be a star lower, because there's only so long I can stand to read about characters whose every problem is self-inflicted and would be solved by a single hour's worth of communication.

The description is also a tad light on detail. This is a historical, Martha Waters! Exploit it! Tell us about the pretty dresses and gorgeous parlours! Instead, most of the book sort of happened in a blank void, where we knew they were in 'a club' or 'park' or 'library' but got no details whatsoever about how they looked.

I find myself a lot more interested actually in the side characters, Violet and James's friends, who seem to be developing interesting romances. I'll certainly be reading the sequels for them.

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