To Have and to Hoax is the debut novel by Martha Waters and was a fun choice for that bingo square. Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey, during her first season, found herself in a compromising position on a dark balcony with the handsome Lord James Audley. Sparks flew between the two of them and when discovered by Violet’s mother, he instantly proposes.
A love match is unusual in their society circles and for the first year everything seemed perfect. Violet is an avid reader, curious, outspoken, and full of ideas. Traits that made her mother initially despair at Violet’s ability to attract a good husband but that Lord James admires in his intelligent wife. Gifted with a country estate and valuable stables from his father the Duke, James feels a compulsion as the second son to prove to his father, and Violet, that he can successfully and profitably run the stables.
Like many a married couple with strong personalities, they squabble and make up in a most satisfactory manner, but then The Argument happens. Nearly over night they go from joy to cold silences and avoiding one another whenever possible. Four years pass in this state with neither side willing to give ground as they both feel righteous in their indignation.
When a riding accident causes Violet to rush to to James side, she realizes that the spark of love is still there. However, at a post station, she finds James climbing out of a carriage in apparently good health. Furious that the accident happened at all and enraged that he caused her such worry, Violet hatches a plan to have him experience the same shock she went through upon hearing of his accident, and prove to him, that he still loves her after all. Thus Violet comes down with consumption. Beneath all the hurt the two are still madly in love but don’t know how to reach the other and so a game of one upmanship begins as they try to gain each other’s attention.
This was a delightful read and a desperately needed break from the state of the world right now. Violet and James strike sparks off one another and you root for them to find a way out of the mess they make because they clearly belong together.