After adoring everything about To Love and to Loathe last summer, I was eager to continue Martha Waters‘s Regency Vows series. I finally read its predecessor, To Have and to Hoax, earlier this month (yes, I read the first two books out of order – oops!), partially in preparation for the newest book in the series: To Marry and to Meddle. That book comes out in just a few days, and I was delighted to be approved for an advanced copy on NetGalley.
Special thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
To Marry and to Meddle opens right where To Love and to Loathe left off. While still at Jeremy Overington’s country estate, just days after he and Diana get engaged, Lord Julian Belfry and Lady Emily Turner agree to enter into a marriage of convenience. It’s a win-win for both of them: Emily, after six seasons, will no longer feel the pressures of her family’s debts and being courted by the odious Mr. Cartham. Julian, for his part, will improve his own reputation and, moreover, show that his theater – The Belfry – is indeed respectable. It may even prove his worth to his estranged father. But while Julian and Emily are clear on the terms of their marriage, they both start to get different ideas as the weeks pass.
The previous two books in this series did a wonderful job of setting up Julian and Emily, both as characters in their own right and as a couple. One of my favorite things about these books is how thoroughly involved the characters are in each others’ lives. Having read the first two already, I went into To Marry and to Meddle already having a strong idea of who Emily and Julian are and an emotional attachment to them both. Of course, in this novel, we get to learn the different nuances and layers to them, and getting this fuller picture made me love each of them even more.
Julian and Emily are both likable and kind characters. In contrast with Violet and Diana, Emily was always the calmer, more proper woman who fit society’s ideal of the time. But she’s not as naive and innocent as she may have seemed. Emily actually has opinions and true mettle to her, and she’s willing to work through tough situations – and with uncooperative people – in order to keep everything smooth. Julian came across as a breezy and fun guy when we first met him. Now, we get to know about how ambitious and hard-working he is, how close he is with (most of) his family, and how thoughtful and considerate he is.
More so than the tumultuous and antagonistic relationships of the first two books, I love how the romance that blossoms between Emily and Julian is gentle and gradual. They’re on good terms when they marry – friends who happen to have a mutual attraction. Neither expects to catch deeper feelings, but of course, that’s exactly what happens. Through getting to know each other, they develop genuine care for one another’s happiness. Perhaps my favorite examples are when Julian stands up for Emily against her critical mother. He also constantly encourages her to be fully herself, with less regard for society’s harsh judgment. No more hiding her true opinions or doing her hair in a style that she hates; Julian wants Emily to be comfortable in her own skin.
In addition to their romance, we also get a look at their complicated family dynamics. As I just alluded to, Emily’s mother is quite critical and controlling. Both of her parents come across as selfish and ungrateful. Meanwhile, although Julian is close with his siblings and (secretly) his mother, he and his father have been estranged for four years. Though he’d be loath to admit it, Julian desperately craves his father’s approval and wants a relationship with him once more. Emily notices Julian’s turmoil over his daddy issues, and she plays a vital role in maintaining and repairing their respective relationships with their parents.
It’s impossible not to mention Emily and Julian’s adorable pet, a kitten named Cecil. He and Julian aren’t on great terms (their meet-cute isn’t all that cute), but Emily is absolutely besotted by the little ball of fur. Julian proves his love for Emily later on when Emily’s mom shares her unwanted opinions about Cecil.
Julian’s theater and acting are also center stage (pun intended) in To Marry and to Meddle, and I enjoyed getting to learn more about both, particularly in this 1810s setting. It’s fascinating to discover how people regarded the theater and what plays were acceptable. I also appreciated the commentary surrounding Julian – the second son of a marquess – deciding to go against societal norms in opening this theater. People of his class simply didn’t do such things. They didn’t even work at all – that was for poor people! I love that Julian goes against the grain and has ambitions beyond elitism and marquess duties.
Emily and Julian make for a sweet couple as they navigate work, society, and family relations. Their marriage of convenience quickly moves beyond what’s convenient and on to doing more important matters, ultimately finding happiness on their own terms.
To Marry and to Meddle is the cutest novel in the Regency Vows series, and I adored getting to know Julian and Emily. Their relationship is quieter and sweeter but just as enticing. I loved everything about them.
Martha Waters just announced that the fourth book in the series is called To Swoon and to Spar, and it will star Penvale and a new character named Jane. It will be out in 2023, so mark your calendars! Then in 2024, the fifth book will finally give us West and Sophie’s love story. The first three novels have all been delightful, and I can’t wait to read the next two!
Get the Book
You can buy To Marry and to Meddle here – it will be available on April 5th as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
Please note that the above links are Amazon affiliate links and I may earn a commission on any purchases you make.
|To Marry and to Meddle by Martha Waters|
|Series||Regency Vows (#3)|
|Number of Pages||336|
|Format I Read||Paperback|
|Original Publication Date||April 5, 2022|
The “sweet, sexy, and utterly fun” (Emily Henry, author of The People We Meet on Vacation) Regency Vows series continues with a witty, charming, and joyful novel following a seasoned debutante and a rakish theater owner as they navigate a complicated marriage of convenience.
Lady Emily Turner has been a debutante for six seasons now and should have long settled into a suitable marriage. However, due to her father’s large debts, her only suitor is the persistent and odious owner of her father’s favorite gambling house. Meanwhile, Lord Julian Belfry, the second son of a marquess, has scandalized society as an actor and owner of a theater—the kind of establishment where men take their mistresses, but not their wives. When their lives intersect at a house party, Lord Julian hatches a plan to benefit them both.
With a marriage of convenience, Emily will use her society connections to promote the theater to a more respectable clientele and Julian will take her out from under the shadows of her father’s unsavory associates. But they soon realize they have very different plans for their marriage—Julian wants Emily to remain a society wife, while Emily discovers an interest in the theater. But when a fleeing actress, murderous kitten, and meddlesome friends enter the fray, Emily and Julian will have to confront the fact that their marriage of convenience comes with rather inconvenient feelings.
With “an arch sense of humor and a marvelously witty voice that rivals the best of the Regency authors” (Entertainment Weekly), Martha Waters crafts another fresh romantic comedy that for fans of Julia Quinn and Evie Dunmore.
About the Author
Martha Waters was born and raised in sunny South Florida, where she spent her childhood reading lots of British children’s books and scribbling away in notebooks. She studied history and international studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she also obtained her master’s degree in library science. 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 in coastal Maine, and loves sundresses, gin cocktails, and traveling.