Historical Romance ARC Reviews: A Wicked Game, To Swoon and To Spar, and Verity & the Forbidden Suitor

Historical romance and I have an up and down relationship at the best of times, but this was a pretty successful set of historical romance ARCs, if I do say so myself. A Wicked Game by Kate Bateman came out in December and it was quite a bit of fun. I was lucky enough to be approved for both the e and audio ARCs, which was wonderful. I listened to it, didn’t use my eyeballs at all, surprising exactly no one. To Swoon and To Spar by Martha Wells came out this month and I was thrilled to discover it was available on Scrib’d so I wound up listening and reading it with my eyes (e-ARC wise). And then finally, I wound up purchasing myself a copy of Verity & The Forbidden Suitor on audio because my eyeballs just were not invested in reading another book.

Historical Romance ARCs: Covers of A Wicked Game by Kate Bateman, To Swoon and To Spar by Martha Waters, and Verity & the Forbidden Suitor by J.J. McAvoy

A Wicked Game by Kate Bateman

The Davis/Montgomery feud has provided ample ground for Bateman to tread during this trilogy (is there another book coming?), but I think that for me, A Wicked Game has been the most successful. There’s something about a bet for three kisses if Morgan returns from war and the delightful way he teases Harriet when he returns that just really got me. My only critique is that I feel like this blend of historical romance and romantic suspense doesn’t weave as seamlessly together in this installment as I would like. I think the elements are all there and the ground is laid, but there’s no sense of danger until the suspense kicks up dramatically. Which, in all honesty, makes sense, but is not my preferred reading experience. But setting that aside, I really enjoyed the exploration of intimacy here. Morgan was so transparent in his perspective at knowing he wanted Harriet, but it was also really nice to see Harriet sort of take control of the situation eventually.

As for the audiobook, I really enjoyed the narration. I fell into the book so quickly and I had a great time. Definitely recommend!

To Swoon and To Spar
by Martha Waters

To Swoon and To Spar is the latest installment in Waters’ series that follows a group of friends and in this particular installment, Penvale finds himself marrying a stranger in order to finally regain the house he grew up in. This brings Jane, an incredibly shy human, in contact with a pretty obnoxious group of close-knit friends. However, the two quickly vacate London and return to the country, only to find out that the home Penvale grew up in is haunted. Or… Is it?

I loved Jane. I thought she was so fascinating. I really appreciated the way she was so reticent to let people in, that she was fiercely protective of herself and the scant bit of independence she had managed to carve out for herself. I loved Penvale’s obliviousness to so much in his steadfast and single-focused pursuit of revitalizing his family’s country seat. I adored their adventures in town and around the house, exploring the ghostly hauntings. But mostly, I really loved the way the two of them came together. Slowly, but almost inevitably. Even the third act conflict didn’t make me want to throw my book across the room because I felt like it made sense, even if I did want to scream at them to have a little more faith. This particular installment is in competition for my favorite of the series with book one, honestly. What an excellent time.

Verity and the Forbidden Suitor
by J.J. McAvoy

In the flood of books being compared to Bridgerton, I think Verity and the Forbidden Suitor holds up really well. There’s a casual diversity of at least skin color without explanation, which is the most transparent and easy to compare aspect. But more importantly, Verity and the Forbidden Suitor and the show Bridgerton both share this need to have a lot of extra dramatics. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for that sometimes and fortunately, when I picked this book up, I was in the mood for it. There’s also a slight element of over-writing almost that doesn’t bother me in audio format, but I think would have irked me more if I had read it with my eyes.

Aside from that slight critique, Verity and the Forbidden Suitor was much stronger for me than the first installment in this series and I found myself enchanted with the way this book discusses the concept of love and knowing when you find yourself infatuated. I loved the side characters and I especially loved the way this book skillfully contrasts the DuBells with Verity and Theodore’s experiences growing up. It felt like a 400 page novel born out of, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” And to that end, if the topic of legitimacy would cause discomfort, I would recommend not reading this book. That said, I am really intrigued to see what the next book in the series will hold and who it will follow.

Closing Thoughts

I had a good time with these historical romances. It was almost enough to make me think that I could return to the days when historical romance was my most read sub-genre. And then I read some contemporary romances and was reminded that my brain is so happy in the contemporary space. So… We’ll see where my reading goes. In the meantime, please let me know if you’ve read any of these! If so, what were your thoughts? If you haven’t, are you interested in trying any of them?


2 responses to “Historical Romance ARC Reviews: A Wicked Game, To Swoon and To Spar, and Verity & the Forbidden Suitor”

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