Review of The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite, narrated by Morag Sims
Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s acting despite the fear, as many famous men – and probably as many overlooked women – have said over the years. Since she and her family were victims of a swindler, Sophie Roseingrave has been living in fear, trying to make herself invisible. When she first meets Maddie Crewe, Sophie is convinced the weaver is up to no good – she’s not wrong – and gathers all her bravery to try and stop her. Her opinion changes on both the other woman and her plan as she is told the reasons behind it.
I loved both main characters from the start, I enjoyed the electricity between them a lot. There are also all sorts of secondary characters, some I would love to read more about. Sophie’s family sounds warm and wonderful and Maddie’s friends would deserve more exposure.
As in the first two books in the Feminine Pursuits series – all can be read as standalones – oppression based on sexual orientation is a possibility but it’s not what the story is about. By not focusing on this possibility while not ignoring it either, Olivia Waite gifts her characters’ love lives with just the right amount of secrecy to be exciting. The political background sets the scene and it’s all about fighting capitalism and the patriarchy, step by step.
I’m still not one hundred per cent convinced by some of Morag Sims’ male voices but I absolutely love the voice she gave Maddie, and the accent glossing over the final Ts. It’s sexy and kickass, with just a hint of vulnerability at times. Sophie’s voice is lighter, fresher, hiding strength ready to take over when the time is right. All these nuances come out beautifully when the two women spend the night together for the first time. Unlike the slow burn of the previous books, Waite gave these two some instalust I had no trouble believing in. They’re both headstrong and go from (light) enemies to lovers with energy and hope that suit their personalities.
As I wrote in my review of the first book, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics (how pretty is that title, seriously?), these historical romance novels have a fantastical feel. Like in urban fantasy and other subgenres, the setting feels familiar. The author uses reality and tweaks it to make it fit her story because that’s what authors do. I’m not saying these books are fantasy, I’m talking about the feelings they evoke in me, the reader. I’m not an expert on the time period the books are set in, I haven’t researched it or anything so for all I know, they’re accurate. Or as accurate as books imagining an out queer woman running for President of the United States or a love story between an American scholar and a British Princess (I don’t have a review for Nell Stark’s The Princess Affair but I translated it and loved it). Olivia Waite, on the other hand, knows her stuff and I can’t recommend this Twitter thread enough.
What also makes this series so enjoyable is how captivating Waite makes all crafts and interests sound. Celestial mechanics and embroidery in the first book, printing and beekeeping in The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (another very pretty title), music and weaving in this last one.
As far as I know, this book concludes a trilogy, but I hope to read more f/f romance, historical or otherwise, from Olivia Waite very soon.