A historical romance set in the early 1800s, To Have and to Hoax is a mildly disappointing swing at a revenge-based rom-com.
Lady Violet and Lord James are quite the stubborn, emotionally stunted pair. After a misunderstanding that occurs one year into their marriage, their next four years amount only to cold stares and silence.
After yet another misunderstanding, Lady Violet decides it right to feign illness in order to get revenge against her husband for his antipathy. The events that follow are a tangle of lies and deceit and bickering of the old-married-couple sort.
Violet, wonderfully voiced by Anais Inara Chase in the audiobook, is the quintessential independent woman living in a time where women are definitionally not independent. This is made very clear throughout the novel, and while it didn’t particularly annoy me, I wish every day for a book where the reader can infer strength and independence without being told to think it. That aside, Violet is a decent character. She’s not particularly memorable, but there were multiple times that I enjoyed her POV.
James, voiced just as well by Joel Froomkin, is progressive for his time (which we love), but wildly obstinate in his distrust in Violet. While this makes more sense throughout the novel, as she begins actually lying to him, what we learn about The Fight To End All Fights that causes their four years of hatred makes him seem like a complete asshole. This is really unfortunate because he could’ve been a really sweet character, but the “reveal” really ruined it for me.
I did like some of the supporting characters, such as West and Sophie, but they were more plot devices to move the main story (and main characters) forward than anything, so there isn’t much to say on them.
The plot of To Have and to Hoax isn’t particularly striking. It was actually a bit of a letdown, as I’d gone in prepared for a series of escalating, intricate revenge plots when what we really got was two children throwing Legos at each other.
While Violet and James’ repartee was entertaining, even funny at times, the plot itself was very low stakes, so the drama didn’t have the impact it could’ve. The worst that would (theoretically) happen if one or the other was caught lying was that they’d continue in their unhappy marriage. Clearly, they were planning on glaring at each other across the dining room table for the rest of their lives, so the idea that I should care about what happens with their relationship at all baffles me.
To Have and to Hoax could’ve been half as long as it was and I wouldn’t have taken away anything different. It drags on and on, not really adding much besides layering on just how much the two hate each other, to the point where there were stretches where I was ready to give up.
The internal monologues are unending and exhausting. I’d definitely recommend listening to the audiobook to make To Have and to Hoax a bit less tiresome because I can’t imagine having to slog through so many repetitive sentences with my own eyes.
As an enthusiastic proponent of the hate-to-love trope, I do appreciate what the author was going for, but this was not it. I see potential in the supporting characters, assuming that’s something the author has in mind, and would warily attempt to read work based on their exploits. To Violet and James, however, I bid an eager farewell.