TO SWOON AND TO SPAR by Martha Waters
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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.
When Viscount Penvale’s uncle offers him the chance to buy Penvale’s childhood home–on the condition that he marry his uncle’s socially inept ward, Jane Spencer–Penvale feels it’s worth the sacrifice. The lady may be insufferable, and not particularly attracted to him, but she assures him she isn’t being coerced and agrees to a chaste marriage of convenience. It’s only after they are married that his uncle reveals the second catch: the estate Penvale has just purchased is haunted.
Jane’s scheme worked too well. When she began faking the haunting of Trethwick Abbey, she’d hoped to merely drive her odious guardian to spend more time in town, to free herself from his micromanagement while getting to stay in the beautiful estate she’d come to love. Unfortunately, the bloody christening gown in his bedchamber scared the man so badly he went and sold the manor–and Jane’s hand in marriage along with it. Now she has another wealthy, controling man to frighten out of her life. But Penvale doesn’t seem as easy to scare away as his uncle, and he may be as attached to Trethwick Abbey as she is. Determined to find out which of the staff is pretending to haunt–and why–Penvale begins nightly searches of the manor, dragging an increasingly anxious Jane along with him. The more time they spend together, however, the more Jane’s feelings of antagonism warm to friendship, and as Penvale comes to better understand his abrasive bride, their determination to remain married “in name only” begins to fade until ghosts aren’t the only secrets lurking between them.
This steamy enemies-to-lovers Regency romance continuation of Waters’ series that includes To Marry and to Meddle will delight fans of the series or newcomers to Waters’ work (although I recommend reading To Love and to Loathe first since it’s hero/heroine feature prominently as secondary characters in this one, and it is also my personal favorite in the series). The antagonism is believable, the premise deliciously absurd, and the sparring full of crackle. I recommend the whole “Regency Vows” series to fans of the genre!