To Have and To Hoax

Atria. Apr. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781982136116. pap. $17. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
DEBUT Four years ago, Violet and James Audley had the fight to end all fights, and they’ve barely spoken since. Once their marriage held passion and romance, now it’s filled with coldness and separation. Then Violet receives word that James has fallen from his horse and is gravely ill, and rushing to his side she finds him perfectly healthy. Angered that he dismisses her concern so casually, Violet hatches a scheme to turn the tables on him by pretending to have consumption. Against the advice of everyone she knows—wouldn’t talking it out be better?—Violet hires a fake doctor and pretends to be bedridden to trick James into admitting his feelings for her. Naturally, her scheme backfires, and soon both of them are involved in a game of snowballing deception. Amid thorny tropes (big misunderstandings, childish revenge plots), there is enough character growth in both James and Violet to make their reconciliation worth readers’ wait.
VERDICT Debuter Waters is off to a promising start with a rare historical romantic comedy that is sure to delight fans of either genre. [Previewed in Eve Stano’s Romance Preview, “Love for All,” LJ 10/19.]
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