Review of ‘The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows’ by Olivia Waite, audiobook narrated by Morag Sims
This is number two in the ‘Feminine Pursuits’, a lesbian historical fiction books series set in England in the early 1800s. Olivia Waite normally writes m/f romances so she was unknown to me until she wrote ‘The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics’, book one in the above-mentioned series. Even though this is a standalone romance, I recommend reading book one too as they are both fantastic novels. There’s no need to keep order in the series as the author says she conceived the books as a carousel in which readers can jump at any point.
Agatha Griffin is a busy widow trying to keep afloat her late husband’s printing business and maintain her radical son out of trouble. When she finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, she asks for the local beekeeper’s help. Penelope Flood lives in a small seaside town that is plagued with social tension after the return to England of the exiled Queen. After meeting Agatha, both women form a friendship which slowly evolves into a closer connection, but at the return of her absent husband, Penelope finds herself torn between her love for Agatha and her loyalty to him.
I always say that I’m not a fan of historical fiction, mainly because the past is normally a hard time for women in general and lesbians in particular. Somehow Ms. Waite found the perfect formula for heartwarming lesbian romances, low in angst but with a strong feminist message. As in the first book of the series, her protagonists are strong women who don’t conform to the roles that society reserved for them and fight for their rights and place in the world. Compared to the previous novel, this one is more political and strips down the double morals of the society in general and the monarchy in particular, especially with respect to the role of marriage during that period.
Yet again, the author builds powerful chemistry between the leads, establishing a sweet friendship first which sets the ground for a strong bond later. As with the previous book, we learn about women in unconventional jobs and their challenges. I absolutely loved the use of metaphors of those trades – astronomy in book one, beekeeping in this one – to describe the characters’ feelings. The cast of secondary characters is very well built as it’s the political and social subplot.
For audiobook lovers, it’s great news that both book and audio versions were released at the same time. As ‘The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics’ this was also narrated by Morag Simms who did another very good job. I love her different voices for both male and female characters, especially the ones she’s got reserved for the villains who sound particularly spiteful. Her overall performance of the feelings that the characters go through is fantastic. Ms. Simms brings out a rich storytelling layer to the written text. 5 stars.
Available in Scribd. Length: 9 hrs and 50 mins