I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Hellion’s Waltz is the third book in Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuits series (the first book, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics was published in 2019 and the second Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows last year). As I said in my review of The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, one of the things I love most in good romance writing is when authors interact with larger themes. These books aren’t just sexytimes, nor are they just character studies, they are in fact observations about living with emotions. In order to unpack the emotional lives of the characters the world around them are grown out and investigated, and in historical fiction there is plenty of political turmoil to muck about in. Waite does just that in The Hellion’s Waltz using the backdrop of England’s evolving textile industry to explore how corrupt men will corrupt systems, and occasionally in order to do good you must go against the rules.
Our main pair is Sophie Roseingrave, piano teacher and composer, and Maddie Crewe, silk-weaver. Sophie’s family have moved to Carrisford (p.s. I’m pretty sure most of the names in this are shoutouts to A Little Princess) following a conman who ruined her and her family’s reputations and left them in a position of having to sell their piano shop. Maddie has deep roots in town, and specifically with the Weavers’ Union with whom she is plotting to take down the evil Mr. Giles. Sophie overhears part of the swindle and goes about putting herself in Maddie’s way; regardless of any attraction she may feel. The story then pings back and forth between the sexual and romantic relationship between Sophie and Maddie and the ever more complex plot to give Mr. Giles what he has coming and make the Weaver’s Union financially secure.
My favorite part of Waite’s work is that she populates the books with a variety of characters who are living their lives in a variety of ways that fall outside what society might accept. This book is free of any inner struggle about can the main pair be together – they’ve both been in previous relationships and know how to bend around society’s rules. They also receive no push back from family or community; their relationship is accepted (even by Maddie’s stepmother in some of my favorite dialogue in the book). Which brings me to my least favorite part of this book: while I bought how quickly the pair jumped into a sexual relationship (seriously, its fast) Waite just didn’t get me there on the romance side of things, the love that these two characters are meant to be feeling in order to have chosen to stay with each other by the end of the book. The emotional side of the book felt very underdeveloped in comparison to the swindle plot.
There’s a great variety in this series, the books are wildly different in character backgrounds and pace as well as plot type and tropes. If this one isn’t for you (its my least favorite of the series) then odds are one of the other two is more up your alley.
Bingo Square: New Series