A married couple’s long years of feuding come to an end in this romance debut.
In her first season, Lady Violet Grey was caught unchaperoned on a balcony with Lord James Audley. Although they only engaged in mild flirting and friendly banter, he immediately offers to marry her rather than see her ruined. The timeline jumps forward five years to a couple in great distress. Even though they were celebrated as a great love match, a year into the marriage they had a bitter fight that neither could forgive or forget. The chilly, uncomfortable silence lasts for four years, only breaking when Violet receives a note informing her that James was knocked unconscious after falling from his horse. She realizes she still loves him and rushes to his bedside, but he’s fully recovered by the time she arrives. Furious and convinced he played her for a fool, she decides to fake an illness of her own to show him how it feels. Their friends and family encourage them to talk to each other rather than plot and plan, but they are too afraid to trust each other after all the years of discord. Waters is a gifted writer. She deploys sharp, incisive prose to describe each character’s inner world, showing how each is a product of their upbringing and class. James resents being the neglected second son while Violet chafes at the bounds of feminine propriety. It’s clear the novel is attempting to create a comedic War of the Roses–style game of one-upmanship, but readers might lose patience as James' and Violet’s immature antics drag on. It’s difficult to root for characters so committed to nursing their feelings of resentment, animosity, and persecution.
Most likely to appeal to readers looking to see just how far the “enemies to lovers” trope can be stretched before it snaps.