“Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.” Emma, Jane Austen.
Diana and Jeremy or Willingham as she calls him for most of the book, bicker, flirt, gossip and try their best to win every verbal and non-verbal battle they find themselves in. If they cannot see that they are indeed friends or even potential partners it’s not really their fault. They have several wonderful dialogue repertoires to prove their innocence.
Martha Waters breathes a fresh take on Drawing Room Regency Romance with Diana whose wit and humor will make it difficult not to laugh at some of the conversations and Jeremy whose unchallenged self-esteem will make you want to roll your eyes (all in good humor of course!).
The book begins with a wager: whether Jeremy, the Marquess of Willingham a rake whose reputation is enough to make the marriage minded mammas frown would be married by the end of the social season of the book or as Diana says “in three snaps”.
This book is a loose inspiration from Jane Austen’s Book Emma. Diana very much in the same strain as Emma thinks she can fix up marriages in particular her friend Emily who needs serious rescuing and Willingham’s since he needs an heir to his seat. That is also probably where the similarities end. Diana is a widow and that seems to give her a sense of power that her best friend who is single and titled does not. Being coy and naïve was never Diana’s forte since the beginning when we are introduced to the young debutante methodically hunting for a match for herself. She is a very shrewd and intelligent woman and the reader is meant to love her for all her spirit.
Martha Waters has done her research in writing this book about the era and the society and this is evident in little tidbits she leaves about being a woman, a widow (Diana) and titled landowner (Jeremy). The struggles and whims of both the characters give us insights into who they are as people as well as the time they lived in.
Widowhood gives Diana the ultimate power over her fate (or so as she thinks) but even that little bit of comfort she enjoys is because her late husband was kind enough to bestow on her a sum and she was fortunate enough to have equanimous relationship with the nephew who has succeeded the husband’s title to allow her to live as she wishes in the city house.
A trivial detail in background becomes important because it gives her character a richer layer to show entitlement was also quite restrictive for women.
Just like how Diana is constantly aware that Willingham has to bear a child in order for the title to remain in the family. Her insistence on him marrying is more a commentary on the times rather than her fixation on the man. Though I could easily argue the case for that too.
Diana had to become a widow to enjoy any thought of amorous engagements while Jeremy can nonchalantly walk in and out of any lady’s boudoir without a stain. His status as a rake is painstaking self -cultivated while Diana is only able to meet Jeremy alone in her own parlor without any chaperone because she is a widow. Otherwise it would have been a complete scandal.
None of these things are meant to take away from the book’s flavor or meant as a social critique but simply somethings that was predominantly how the society functioned and a tool to be used in our universe to the advantage of the heroine.
“Success supposes Endeavour.” EMMA, JANE AUSTEN
While Diana seems to be more flesh and blood in the Regency era, Jeremy felt a lot like a woke hero of modern times. Sometimes the background and his sensibilities were so conflicted, it seemed like had the situations occurred in our modern times, our hero would probably have reacted in pretty similar manner. Martha Waters evidently made an upgrade to the past times and does them well.
Nowhere is Diana shown as a simpering maiden who is constantly thinking about motherhood or acting as a widow delegated to the corner of the room now that she does not hold any significant social status.
Jeremy who is a self-made rake seems to have got all the ticks in right boxes as appropriate to the era but inside all the cover is rather like our modern candy floss hero who rightfully asks permission of the lady at every step in the bedroom.
Because so integral are these small nuggets of information that you will miss them if you are not an avid Regency Romance reader. This is what I consider a success of this book. The spin is so subtle and fine that it weaves itself into the fabrics of the Regency Era.
My verdict, pick this book not because its a Regency Romance but pick because the characters are so darling that you would love them no matter which era they would have been placed in.
The Author: Martha Waters
Martha Waters spent her childhood reading lots of British children’s books and scribbling away in notebooks. She is the author of the historical rom-coms To Have and to Hoax, To Love and to Loathe, and To Marry and to Meddle (scheduled for publication in 2022). By day, she works as a children’s librarian, and loves traveling.
I think her love for historical rom-coms definitely paid off. Can’t wait to read her next installment which I think would be Emily’s story.
Hope you enjoyed my review of “To Love and to Loathe” by Martha Waters.
Thanks for stopping by.
Hope you will join me for the next review.