When Agatha Griffin finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, it’s the not-so-perfect ending to a not-so-perfect week. Busy trying to keep her printing business afloat amidst rising taxes and the suppression of radical printers like her son, the last thing the widow wants is to be the victim of a thousand bees. But when a beautiful beekeeper arrives to take care of the pests, Agatha may be in danger of being stung by something far more dangerous…
Penelope Flood exists between two worlds in her small seaside town, the society of rich landowners and the tradesfolk. Soon, tensions boil over when the formerly exiled Queen arrives on England’s shores—and when Penelope’s long-absent husband returns to Melliton, she once again finds herself torn, between her burgeoning love for Agatha and her loyalty to the man who once gave her refuge.
As Penelope finally discovers her true place, Agatha must learn to accept the changing world in front of her. But will these longing hearts settle for a safe but stale existence or will they learn to fight for the future they most desire?
A delightful extremely slow-burn f/f historical set in the tumultuous times between the Cato St Conspirators' execution and the death of Queen Caroline. I absolutely loved the historical background here, it's one of incredibly few Regencies I've read that really understands what a terrifying, repressive time it was for ordinary people, with grotesquely draconian laws arbitrarily enforced. We're genuinely afraid for Agatha, the printer, trying to make a living without falling foul of the laws and compromising her own morals and self-respect in the process.
There's an awful lot of hard thinking in this book--about direct action, the impact of marriage laws on women, the balance between political activism and personal life, and the effect of constant compromising on the human (particularly female) soul, in the personal as well as political spheres. I loved this. Those who want to get straight to the bonking may not be so happy, but what we have here is a really well-developed pre-romance relationship that makes the eventual HEA one of the most credible and underpinned I've read. These two people know each other deeply, have developed friendship and mutual respect and seen each other's courage and kindness and fears and weakness, and that makes the romance profoundly grounded and convincing.
Also there is a lot on beekeeping which is fascinating and makes for excellent metaphors, plus the use of it at a climactic plot point is absolute genius. I was cheering and waving things.
Honestly this book is so well grounded. There's a real sense of a big existing *real* world and a whole range of people busily living their lives at all strata of society and dealing with the actual range of human problems, small to large scale, personal, professional and political. The only comparable histrom I can think of right now is Spring Flowering which is also a slow-burn f/f, oddly enough. And come to that, though in an alt-world, the Alpennia series starting with Daughter of Mystery, which is *also* f/f slow burn. There's a thesis in here.
A terrific historical and a lovely character piece.
3.75 Stars. Another good WLW historical romance read. This is the second book in Waite’s Feminine Pursuits series. While I’m sorry to say that I didn’t love this like I did book one, The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics, I’m happy to say that I did still enjoy this. I like this world of strong women fighting for love and happiness.
I am very OCD when it comes to reading series books in order, but order is not important here at all. While a couple secondary characters from the first book are characters in this book, there is not the strong tie-in between books that I expected. This is a completely new story and we hardly even see the main characters from book one. The Countess does make a small appearance but that was it. I’m getting off track here a bit but this was actually a disappointment for me. I was so attached to the mains -from book one- that I wanted a little time with them again at least. Anyway, this is the long and drawn out way to say that you can read these books in any order that you wish.
While book one mostly took place in London, 65% of this book is in a small country town a carriage ride away from London. This led to a new setting that opened up the series to many new people and possibilities. What I loved was all the scenes about the bees. One of the mains is an expert bee keeper and looks out for the bees all over town. I have an interest in honey bees and would actually love to have some hives myself so I ate these scenes up. They were also oddly romantic too which seems weird to say but some of the better chemistry I thought the women had was over the bees.
I enjoyed both main characters most of the time. I liked Griffin very much and I liked Flood, but that was more when she actually had some nerves. She was a little spineless at times which drove me nuts, but I loved her character growth and I almost felt like I was watching a “Towanda” moment -for those of you old enough to get that quote- which was a lot of fun to see.
When it came to the romance I was a little more mixed. As I mentioned there were times that I felt things were sweet and romantic, but then there were a few times I felt more friendship than sexual attraction. I didn’t think this couple had the sparks that the main couple from book one had together. While I was missing some chemistry, I’m happy to say that there were more sparks than I expected in the bedroom. These two women clicked sexually and there was heat there that I had earlier found to be missing. So for me the sex scenes really were needed since they sold the two women as a possible real couple to me.
I think the biggest issue for me ended up being that I felt like Waite was trying to do too much. There was a lot going on in this story and I felt almost a little restless at times jumping to each different thing. When Waite really focused on something, like the bees, the story really shined. I wish she would have picked fewer plot topics and really focused on them instead of spreading herself a bit thin. It was not the end of the world but it’s mostly why I didn’t care for this as much as the first book.
If you were a fan of The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics, I have a good feeling you will enjoy this book too. If you are new to this series and a fan of smart and well done historic romances, what are you waiting for go get book one. I’m happy to say that there will be a book three. In fact Waite teased where the new main character might be living. I’m glad we get another book is this world and I hope we get some appearances from past main characters (cough Lucy and the Countess cough cough).
What if we handled bees together in the 1800s… and we were both girls? The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows is a sweet romance between Agatha, a London book publisher, widower, and mother to a radical, and Penelope, a country beekeeper married to a gay man off at sea.
Olivia Waite has a style of writing romance that must just really work for me. She builds the relationships between these characters slowly but surely, making the audience hard-pressed not to root for them at every turn. Even when the banter is slow-building, I just never fail to invest in her characters.
Additionally, Waspish Widows touches pretty heavily on themes of class. I liked that Sydney and Eliza, Agatha’s son and apprentice respectively, got their own storyline building into themes of the novel. I also adore how she interacts with actual historical events and topics; the public trial Queen Caroline (of Brunswick) of Great Britain places the date at 1806.
I didn’t love this quite as much as I adored Celestial Mechanics, as I just didn’t feel quite as strongly about the characters, but overall this was a worthy sequel, and I’m excited to read book three. If you like Waite's novels you should give this a try, and if you've never read anything by her, you should try A Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics. (And then this one, if you like it!)
I really, really like Olivia Waite, and I LOVE how she is writing the smart F/F historical romances that we all want to read. I adore historical romance, and I love nerds, so I'm always dying when I read about each upcoming book from this author. However, I think this author gets in her own way a lot of the time.
The good news is that we have two older MCs, a lovely slow-burn romance, and some explicit sex on page, though we have to wait ages to get it. Also, I could have read about the bee-keeping stuff all day long. Very interesting and a lot to delve into there. I also felt like Penelope's family dynamics and marriage had a lot of meaty plot elements that really fleshed out the story.
But the author just couldn't stop there.
We get endless chapters about the King and Queen and their marital issues, sedition laws, religious and puritanical power movements, relationship complications with side characters, and it goes on and on. There are details that are introduced and focused on and then seem to fade in importance. There is just so much there, so much that could have been spread out with another story, that it really muddled the romance for me. The book is very long, and a lot of it felt like extraneous information. I would have been happy with just the bee-keeping stuff alone with maybe a little family drama thrown in. As it was written, I found myself zoning out during the endless pages about the royal scandals.
The romance was very slow to develop, and though I like a slow burn, I wish more of the book had these two women in an actual relationship, not just pining for one. I understand that open communication was very risky during those times, but they basically hinted at each other for over 300 pages until they got their act together. But when they got together finally, whew, lots of chemistry and heat! Thank you, Olivia Waite!
I appreciated all of the research that went into this story, and I think the author did a very good job writing it, but I wish it had been paired down some to make the romance take center stage. Still, I can't wait to read more from this author and see where else she can take me.
2020 Fall Bingo (#fallintorombingo🍁): Older Heroine
I had the lowest of low expectations because people repeatedly told me that this is really slow and not as good as the first one. I postponed my intention to read it because I was nervous for my reaction. Finally, I decided to conquer my reluctance so I could make progress on my owned-in-kindle tbr. Also, it fit my Older Heroine bingo square perfectly and I didn’t have alternatives. 😅
Honestly, I love this book. It doesn’t feel slow at all. I guess technically there isn’t a confession of romantic interest/sex scene until the 75% marker, but it’s not slow! There is passion and intense sexual longing in the first three-quarters (hello, the honey scene!). Also the friendship development feels incredibly romantic to me. Everything about the story (bees, epistolary element, Queen Caroline trial, satirical ballads, Eliza/Sydney) works so well.
If I had to compare Waspish Widows to Celestial Mechanics, the latter is my favorite (I five-starred it). But Waspish Widows is still damn good and I cannot wait until the third book.
A note: I intensely dislike this cover. I feel mean saying this, but it’s disappointing to look at. I’m afraid the bad photoshop might discourage readers from trying this wonderful book. The various yellows clash and the overall effect is just not aesthetically pleasing (I liked the photoshop of the first book). I understand that Avon won’t spend photoshoot money on a smaller book and f/f historical photos are hard to find, but I am still disappointed. ☹️
I am, it seems, one of a few who enjoyed this book more than the first one in Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuits series (both books can be read as standalones). While I liked The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics a lot, I pretty much fell in love with Penelope and therefore with her story.
Set four years after The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows brings Agatha Griffin, a secondary character in The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, to the forefront. Agatha’s husband Thomas died three years ago and she’s since been trying to keep the printing business afloat while managing her son’s increasingly radical ideas. Enter Penelope Flood, also in her mid-forties, come to save the Melliton branch of the print shop from a colony of bees. Penelope is married in name only, which Agatha doesn’t know, and both women quickly find themselves fighting feelings for one another, neither daring to voice them.
I have no idea how accurate the historical background is and I don’t really care, to be honest. I enjoyed the atmosphere, the small-town feel (there’s a map of Melliton on the author’s website) and the political backdrop – from class war to women’s rights to freedom of the press and libel. As a side note, if you’d like to know why your dildo shouldn’t be made of walnut, read J.S. Fields’ review of this book. Also, ignore the cover. It’s pretty but completely wrong.
I had doubts about the narration of The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics and I’m very happy to say I liked this one a lot more. The pace is perfect and each voice works. I laughed a lot more as well. Waite makes beekeeping sound extremely sensual and sexy. Or maybe, as I wrote above, I fell just a tiny bit in love with Penelope, her kindness and her wit. I also enjoyed witnessing the changes in Agatha’s views of the world and her sometimes very sarcastic sense of humour. I loved how uncompromising she is with both her beliefs (even though I completely disagree with most of them) and her love. While Penelope’s journey leads to her growing a backbone, Agatha’s softens her.
All the longing and yearning and the slow burn were delightful, and I loved how hot the sex scenes were once Agatha and Penelope allowed their desires to take over. I’m very impatient to get to read or listen to the third book in the series, The Hellion’s Waltz, which will be released on June 15th.
Re-read 2023: Upping my rating to 4 stars! I think this book does much better as a re-read. There are heavy political themes which at times can seem too on-the-nose, and the story and the romance are very low stakes and slow burn. Knowing what to expect going into it really helped me to sit back and enjoy the ambling of the story as our two heroines fall in love.
First Read 2020: 3.5 stars - In this tale of a country beekeeper falling in love with the widowed owner of a London-based print shop, Olivia Waite’s writing is all-around incredible. While the first book in this series received a lot of well-deserved love, I actually enjoyed this second installment in the Feminine Pursuits saga even more. If you’re in the mood for a historical romance, this is the perfect summer read. It will transport you to the picturesque town of Melliton to stroll through the countryside with Penelope and Agatha, feeling at home among the buzzing bees and fragrant flowers.
One of the most remarkable elements of Waite’s work is the clear amount of in-depth research she puts into every aspect of her story. From historical context that makes for some incredible worldbuilding, to the specific details of each character’s occupation, this book will immerse you in Penelope and Agatha’s universe. Even though a lot of information is packed in, most of it provides fascinating details to support the plot and characters. I learned more about beekeeping and printing presses in 1820’s England than I ever have before, and it was so much fun! These details also help establish why Penelope and Agatha feel and act the way they do, providing further insight on their character personalities and motivations.
Speaking of characters, if you like emotionally-driven plots with lots of internal character conflict, you will likely enjoy this book. Waite’s character work is amazing, and I feel like I got to know everything about Penelope and Agatha, from their wants and fears to their histories and hopes for the future. A lot of these emotions play into their friends-to-lovers story, making for a very slow burn. However, once they do finally get together, the heartwarming romance and steamy sex scenes make the wait well worth it. Penelope and Agatha experience external conflicts as well, but in my opinion these take a backseat to the internal stakes and struggles of our protagonists. I truly felt for both Penelope and Agatha as they tried to do what was best for those around them while discovering what they want and deciding who they want to be. They complement one another so well and it’s crystal clear they’re meant to be together.
I also loved the wide cast of LGBTQ+ characters in this book. Not only is this an F/F romance, and not only do we get a cameo of one of the protagonists from the first book, but we also have at least three other queer couples in the cast. Each of these relationships is so beautifully written that I could honestly read an entire book on any one of them, especially John/Harry and Isabella/Joanna. If Olivia Waite gives these characters their own books I will devour them in no time!
My only critique, which I think comes down to personal preference rather than issues with the story, is that a certain aspect of the historical context added one too many layers for me. Specifically, I’m referencing the subplot around the Queen Caroline protests. At the beginning of this book, I fell in love with beekeeping and printing presses, could clearly envision the contrast between busy London and tranquil Melliton, and became quickly attached to our cast of characters and their individual interests and issues. While these personal issues are tied to the protests and ultimately lead to conflicts of their own, it was difficult to feel invested in the protests when I was already so devoted to our main characters’ already-established dilemmas. The protests and connections to women’s rights still ring true today, however, the story provides enough complex character pairings, such as Penelope/John, Agatha/Thomas, Sydney/Eliza, and the Turners, among others, to have more than enough material to examine the disadvantages of being a woman in society. If this book featured Queen Caroline as a character perhaps I would feel differently, but ultimately I wanted to get past the protests subplot so the story could center around the characters I’d grown to love.
Overall I would recommend this book, and I will definitely look forward to book #3 in the series – based on the title and premise alone, it already sounds amazing!
Thank you to HarperCollins Publishers/ Avon Impulse via Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
I was really looking forward to this sequel ever since reading The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics and it met all expectations.
Agatha and Penelope immediately seemed like real people to me, their different experiences and personalities made them come to life right away. They are both sapphic women in their 40s (Penelope is a lesbian and Agatha bi or pan) and I just want to say that as a younger queer reader it's so good to see older protagonists, especially when it comes to sapphic relationships.
While I remember The Lady's Guide to be a faster romance, this one was very slow burn and I find it was well developed and not unnecessarily dragged for the sake of building up tension. It made sense for them to get together when they did and not sooner, and there was plenty of sapphic yearning and pining.
The presence of queer people (other than the main characters) in historical times was already given some space in the first book but here it was further developed with many side characters that are either currently in a same sex relationship or are canonically queer. Even the other characters, aside from the antagonists, are perfectly accepting of queerness and fully acknowledge these queer relationships in their romantic and sexual nature instead of glossing over them as "good friends". Since this was my favorite thing in the first book I'm really, really happy about how this aspect was further developed and always present especially in the second half of the book.
The historical context of England of that time was pretty much lost on me so I did miss a lot of the references and kind of had to skim the plot because I didn't care too much about it, but even without a lot of context the book was still enjoyable and if I had been more confused I could've certainly done some research of my own to understand it better, but the fact that I didn't feel compelled to do it meant that it was fine (also that I'm lazy, but I'm not here to review myself).
Overall if you enjoyed the first book this has a different relationship dynamic and different themes but similar vibes and, just as that one, it reads as social and cultural commentary on top of a beautiful romance. It follows different characters aside for a few cameos so it can be read as a standalone and I highly recommend it if you're into sapphic romances where they're both on the slightly older side and if you think bees are cute and important 🐝
This author and these covers. It’s laughable how much they misrepresent the characters and solid story behind it. Again, don’t judge a book by its cover.
I was able to listen to the audiobook version on Scribd and the narrator did a superb job. How she slips between the very distinct accents of our leads while also giving unique voices to the rest of the cast is beyond me. Really well done.
This is the 2nd book in the series though this can be read as a standalone.
And that said, I do think the first book is better but I value this one too. Where the first book had a crackling and stronger chemistry, this had a really slow build up that ended in a fireworks explosion.
I appreciated that the story revolved around two mature women (mid forties to fifties, I think) one plump, the other plain. Their love story is built on a strong friendship first and it was interesting to see how different they were from each other and the circles they existed in (think country mouse, city mouse).
It’s intriguing to see how Penelope and Agatha navigate a hostile environment towards women and gays and how they’re able to harness power in their own way.
It’s a really sweet love story with a rich descriptive history for the background.
If you are looking for a thoughtful, thematically rich, slow-burn, f/f historical romance featuring middle-aged women, then this is definitely worth checking out. There's a lot to like here, although for a romance it does feel a bit bloated and has some pacing issues- dragging through the middle and then breezing through the last 25% or so. And it takes FOREVER for the romance to get going! Although once they finally admit their feelings for each other, it's fantastic.
The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows follows Agatha Griffin (buttoned up widow running a printing company in London and managing her politically radical, nearly grown son) and Penelope Flood (unconventional small-town beekeeper engaging in brief affairs with women in between her gay husband's long absences at sea). When Agatha discovers a beehive in her rural warehouse, Penelope comes to the rescue and the two begin a friendship, writing letters back and forth, and regularly visiting one another. As I said, they don't admit their feelings until the last 25% of the book and I wish it had begun sooner instead of just jumping in full-force so late in the game.
I loved the friendship and growing love between these women, not to mention the care and appreciation of their middle-aged, imperfect bodies. This really wrestles with how queer people lived during this time period- the dangers, the compromises, and the work-arounds. The author clearly did a deep dive of research into other topics as well- beekeeping, printing methods, and the nuances of politics during the time and their relationship to women's rights and lack of access to divorce. All of which are interesting, but I did feel like they dominated the narrative to a greater degree than I wanted for a romance.
I love romance that explores bigger issues, but in this case it felt like too much given the genre. This easily could have been a new favorite if it was pruned a bit and more attention was given to the romantic element. That said, once the romance (finally!) kicks off, it's a steamy whirlwind that combines love and friendship in a beautiful way. I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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.
ARC via Netgalley. A lovely and slow-moving romance between two middle-aged, middle-class women in early 1800s England. This is a very plot-heavy book for a romance novel, with an interesting focus on contemporary political issues that I didn't know much about -- sedition laws and especially George IV's attempt to divorce his wife, Queen Caroline. One of the protagonists, Agatha, is a widow who runs a printing press, while the other, Penelope, is a sailor's wife who happens to be her village's expert in beekeeping. (The meet-cute is extremely cute: a swarm of bees infests Agatha's storage shelves, and Penelope comes to rehome the bees.) There are lots of very thoughtful details, including the relationship between Agatha's adult son and her apprentice (there is a really great scene early on in the book where all three of them talk about what they would do if they could change just one law: Sydney picks freedom of the press, Eliza picks universal suffrage, and Agatha picks the right to an easy, cheap divorce, which tells you so much about all three characters in so few words), the community in Penelope's village, and a subplot about a local musician and lyricist who's trapped in a bad marriage. There aren't many sex scenes, and it takes a while for Agatha and Catherine's relationship to become physical, but once it does they're quite explicit, just FYI! Catherine from The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics has a brief cameo appearance, but the books aren't closely related and I think they could be read independently of each other without anything being lost. Recommended especially for readers who like a lot of history in their romance -- I think KJ Charles fans would really enjoy this series.
3.5 stars. Another cleverly well written historical romance. Although I enjoyed the first book “The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics” a bit better, this book is certainly well worth the read, especially if you like historical romances. This book can be read as a standalone.
The two mains, Agatha and Penelope, are both middle aged women (~45), one living in London and one in Melliton (a village not too far from London). Agatha Griffin is a widow who’s trying to keep her printing business afloat and she is preparing her son to take over the family business someday. Penelope Flood is a beekeeper in Melliton and is married to a sailor who is almost never home. They meet when Agatha has a bee problem in a printshop in Melliton and needs expert help.
These novels are not just romantic stories, they have a scientific and political background that seems sound and well researched, which I appreciate a lot. In this book there are various storylines, the beekeeping storyline is one of them and I absolutely loved that one, but because of this diversity (and the relatively slow pace of the book) it took some time for me to get invested in the book. However, when I finally was fully invested I finished it quickly.
There are two clear themes overlapping in the first and the second book, namely: women’s rights and the distribution of power. Like the first book, this book shows the inequality between men and women and the unfairness of the living situation of women, meaning, to be fully dependent on the goodwill of a husband. This topic is brought to the attention through the storyline on the marriage/divorce of King George IV and Queen Caroline, as well as the complete corruption of the political system. Unfortunately, I did not find this king/queen storyline particularly interesting, but I did like the underlying storyline, so I can see why Waite chose this storyline. In fact, like in the first book there were some moments that I just got so angry with the unfairness of it all, I really felt frustrated and I was so relieved when Agatha and Penelope finally decided to fight back. I love it when a book can make you feel strongly about a cause.
The romance is super slow burn and the largest part of the book there is more a friendship feel then a romance. As a reader you’re told several times that they feel something for the other person, but I didn’t really feel it. Only near the end do they get together and there are significantly more sparks in the bedroom (some quite surprising), but I had some trouble connecting their attraction in the bedroom to the lingering feeling of friendship. Strangely, I found the relationship of Penelope’s brother Harry more romantic. While I did not think the romance was the strongest element in this book, there were many other topics that kept my interest and made this a good book to read.
I can recommend this book if you liked the first book “The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics” or historical romances in general. I’m glad to see there will be a third book in the series.
Now that I've actually read the book, the cover makes me even more angry. I honestly, 100% no lie, did not read this book because of the cover. I find it loathsome. From far away, it's bad. It's clear the lady behind is wearing modern clothes. That is in no way the estimable Penelope Flood, beekeeper. The lady in front is wearing a dress that doesn't fit, and also is ugly, and also she is supposed to be a printer. Where are her work clothes, where are her ink-stained hands. It gets even worse when you look at it up close, though. I got a hard copy out from the library, and up close, this cover is an abomination. Someone at Avon decided to complete this cover real quick on their lunch hour, because it is one of the worst Photoshop jobs I've ever seen. These are clearly two people who aren't even in the same room. This is some uncanny valley bullshit right here. And to make matters worse, this is the best of Waite's books in this series by a large margin, and it deserved to have a cover as beautiful as the first book got.
Anyway, now that I'm done ranting about this (for the moment), I do want to talk about how lovely the book was. Something I'm finding after some self-reflection is that a slow burn nearly always works better for me than a romance where the leads are hot and heavy for each other right away, even if the book is from an author whose work I've previously enjoyed. A really good author can make me love a romance where this happens, but not a mediocre one. I need time, I need to see the bond forming. This book is excellent at that. And while it was being excellent at building Flood and Griffin's relationship (that's what they call each other and it is adorable), it is also a fun piece of historical fiction, taking place around the same time the "trial" against Queen Caroline acted as a focus point for radical thought and reform in England. As one of our main characters is a printer with a radical thinker for a son, the events aren't just background.
Anyways, if you happen to think the cover is ugly, too, don't let that steer you away from the book, whose contents are not at all reflected in its outer package. Good title, though.
Read Harder Challenge 2021: Read a book with a cover you don't like.
Just as adorable, lush, and incisive as the first book in the Feminine Pursuits series.
I really admire the way Waite draws parallels between circumstances facing the characters to issues faced by women and other marginalized identities today. In Celestial Mechanics it was doxxing, dogpiling, and false accusations; in Waspish Widows it was the way changing political tides can bring out the absolute worst in people.
In some ways I liked the romance more in this book, even though it wasn't as steamy. I really like bees on a theoretical level and love the myths and lore surrounding them, so Penelope teaching Agatha about them as part of their initial friendship was especially endearing to me. I also liked that there even was such a strong initial friendship between two 40something women. This felt like more of a slow burn romance and in a lot of ways I appreciated that.
Waite's writing 99% of the time is just SO smart and SO pretty, there's a solidity and groundedness to the novels because the descriptions of objects are so evocative.
While the pacing in the romance felt smoother (and thus less angsty), I did feel like the overall pacing was a bit slow, but that's a complaint I often have when reading romance, so ymmv on this point.
This title alone should be enough to make you want to read this historical romance. I wasn't sure what to expect after reading the first book in this series. I don't think I rated it as high as many people but after reading this one, I am thinking I need to reevaluate so I will likely go back and read the other one soon. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. As soon as I started reading this one, I was taken with the story. I could not put it down. It was all one would want to read in a romance. Sometimes I have a harder time reading historical romances because the language is different, but this one was easy for me to read. Again, this one grabbed me and kept my attention the entire time. No boredom with this one. This romance is for sure slow, but even when the two Mains get together it is juicy and spicy. I have to admit, I really hope Waite has a few more in this series. Well done! 4.5 stars, but rounding to 5.
This arc was provided by netgally and the publisher for an honest review.
So first, if you find this cover not great and it is holding you back from reading, please ignore it. The book itself is wonderful, and while the color scheme itself is appropriate for a book about bee keeping, the quality of the photoshop here is not a reflection of the contents.
Second, this book is the slowest of slow burns and if that is not your thing, you are probably not going to enjoy reading.
Third, this was LOVELY. This features the right amount of showing someone's work and how that work defines them, heroines who call each other by their last names, letter writing, and a wonderful sense of community and place. Sometimes I think I have a love/hate relationship with overtly political queer historicals, because I get such a knot in my stomach regarding the legalities and what will go wrong, but I am also grateful for the history lessons they provide.
Read for The Ripped Bodice Bingo 2020 square: Apple Orchard
Overall, an enjoyable & unique Regency romance (& not just because of the f/f love story). I liked a lot of things about this—the deeper, not-lowest-common-denominator writing style; the inclusion of beekeeping & seditious papers; the true marriage of convenience; the correspondence between the heroines; the clean, sharp dialogue that doesn’t resort to endless, boring, clichéd “witty banter”; the antiquated feel to challenges & motivations despite a contemporary approach to various story elements. (Example: the word ‘fuck’ is used on occasion & the MCs enjoy loveplay with a dildo.)
Also, non-titled leads. I repeat: NON-TITLED LEADS. WHO HAVE JOBS & OBLIGATIONS. WHO ARE NOT BORING FAKE-RAKES OR WHINY SPINSTERS BOOHOO’ING FOR BEING NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS.
...Pardon the excessive capslock, but dude. I can’t be the only one sick of that storyline. 😶
That said, there are a couple too many plotlines being juggled—specifically Agatha’s son Sydney & Nell the abused wife. Unlike many reviewers, I actually enjoyed the stuff about Queen Caroline because it’s a micro-historical period so underused in Regencies; alas, I felt that Nell’s plot was overkill (not to mention redundant), whereas Sydney’s idealistic bleating was too saccharine for yours truly. By the 2/3rds point I found myself skimming anything about Sydney or Nell, which forces me to round down. I also prefer a more action-oriented plotline, whereas this is a more sedate Small Town Problems(tm) sort of tale—but that’s my personal taste. If you’re a fan of slower, mellow plots where the angst is high but the drama is minimal, WASPISH WIDOWS may suit. *shrug*
So. Despite the flaws this was a better-than-average genre romance (particularly in terms of Avon’s sagging, drab, & utterly uninteresting output in recent years) & I’ll definitely try others by this author, whether f/f or m/f.
(NB: Why oh why can’t we have more traditionally-published m/f romances that include these positives? *sigh*)
Great concept! ...Untitled heroines, legit Regency issues, eye-catching hook about bees & seditious newspapers. Color me intrigued. 🐝💛🐝
Terrible cover. ...But hey, at least it isn’t that wretched pop-art cartoon style that’s flooded the romance shelves. Gag.
This one I'm ambivalent about. I was excited to listen after being a big fan of The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics, and though there were some real positives with it, the experience was still just "meh" for me. I enjoyed that one of the main characters, Agatha Griffin (first introduced in Mechanics) ran a printing business in London owned exclusively by her after the death of her husband. Certainly unusual in the late 1700s. There was also a well-known lesbian couple in the community that people more or less tolerated because they had their own wealth. There is also a historical reference to Queen Caroline of Brunswick, married to King George IV who tried to divorce her and introduced a bill to be able to do so. He was so loathed he had to withdraw it when there was an uprising by the people. The second main character, Penelope Flood, lives in a smaller wealthy community outside London, and spends much of her time as a beekeeper. They meet when Agatha has an issue with a large number of bees who decide to take up residence in one of her printing warehouses. This is a very slow-moving, very involved story. Adding to the mix is Agatha's son and the object of his affection trying to find their way in the world, Penelope's unconventional marriage, and how women in general navigate life in a time that is not kind to them or their rights. The romance also moves at a snail's pace, but once it arrives, it advances to the bedroom at lightning speed. I found that a bit abrupt, and was even more surprised/skeptical by what happened with their second encounter. It's much hotter than I expected and although I am a big fan of that in general, in this story it felt out of place. They also called each other by their last names, which somehow felt less intimate to me. I think there was just too much going on in the story to invest in just them.The narration was good and although there were several interesting things going on, I found it all just okay. 3.5 stars rounded to 4.
me, in the shower half an hour after finishing the book finally realizing, to my delight, that there was no - i think i've seen people call it (??) - "third act breakup" and no stupid miscommunication or fighting: i wish i could give this book one more star just for this
No rating because DNF. I just realized that I wasn't enjoying it. The narrator didn't help (or didn't help enough). I wasn't feeling any chemistry between the characters. I didn't care about the Queen's divorce or the libel laws or -- really most of what was happening in the text. And the last straw where speeches that felt very out of place is a historical novel.
Usually historical stories are too scary for me because it wasn't ok to be gay in most places for most of history. So even trying this was a stretch for me.
I loved Olivia Waite’s debut last year, The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics, so I was quite eager with this one. Alas, the sophomore book didn’t charm me as much. I struggled to get through the first part of this book. I thought there were too many things that happening, it muddled the romance. Most especially everything related to the Royal Scandal of King George IV and Queen Caroline.
I understand that this book was set around that time, and with Agatha Griffin worked in printing business, this event might seep into her daily life. But I thought it was too much. I could feel my eyes glazed over all those parts; like, if I want to learn about history in detailed, I could check out Wikipedia.
The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows picked up about half-way through. In fact, if only Waite focused on Agatha Griffin, Penelope Flood, and the people of Melliton, I thought this could be a more enjoyable story for me. I had fun reading Agatha and Penelope dealing with The Melliton Auxiliary Branch of the Society for Suppression of Seditious Libel and Mendacity (my God that’s mouthful *laugh*). When Penelope arranged that ‘plan’ to help the beekeepers of Melliton against the vicar and the revengeful Lady Summerville… well, I was very much invested!!
This is a very slow-burn romance; we didn’t get any “action” until the last third of the book. But when we got to that part, it was good! I also liked Agatha’s relationship with her teenage son and his girlfriend. As well as Penelope’s relationship with her husband (don’t worry, it’s a marriage of convenience, because Penelope’s husband was in love with her brother, and Penelope only liked women). Oh, and this is a story about two women in their forties too, so that is another plus point.
So yes, this has its wonderful moments but those other side stories (including the real-life history) made The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows rather boring *shrugs*
4.5 Stars for The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows: Feminine Pursuits (audiobook) by Olivia Waite read by Morag Sims. I’m really enjoying this series. The writing is clever and fun. I’m really looking forward to the next book. I love the narration too.
This book features the printmaker from book 1, Mrs Agatha Griffin who helped the MC's from the first book in printing their Ladies Guide To Celestial Mechanics.
In the years since the first printing Mrs Griffin finds herself widowed with a 19 year old son. Eliza the former maid from book 1 is still working steadily in her apprenticeship and a romance for her is forming as well.
But the big romance is that between Agatha and a merchants daughter who is keenly interested in beekeeping. Penelope Flood.
It is a very slow burn romance where it takes until 72% of the book for them to admit their true feelings and kiss. But don't mistake their reticence for being ignorant or coy physically. Both have had female lovers in the past and thusly make quick work of those feelings in hot pursuit.
There's a common theme throughout the book of women being controlled by husbands and other males in authority and judged unfairly even by other women. Often hypocritically so. The moralistic fibres of that very judgmental society of the time is woven very clearly to the point I myself felt rather claustrophobic!
There's major references to Queen Caroline and the trial to defame her and the politics of the time and how restrictive the press and freedoms we're quite tenuous at the time.
This book really covers so much about libel, morality, politics, double standards, women's rights, the press and freedoms of speech and so much more! It's truly fascinating and sobering having grown up in such a different time period where we take so much if this for granted.
Waite will always be my go to author for F-F historical romance. The romance is always written so well and filled with emotions. It never just feels like a M-F romance masked as F-F romance. Penelope and Agatha’s chemistry was palpitating and I always loved the scenes they are alone in.
My reasoning for not giving it a higher rating was because I wanted a more romance centric plot. There is lots of side plots and other characters which lots of other people will enjoy.
A special should out to the spicy scenes. Were 5/5 🔥
I have to admit that I only requested this book because of the ridiculously over the top cover. This is not the sort of book I ordinarily read and I expected something totally campy because the cover is so cringe-worthy. Perhaps I'm especially harsh because my family and I do a lot of period reenactment so I know a bit more than most what clothes and hairstyles should look like in 1800's England, but come on. The cover shows what looks like two young women with one in a tacky prom dress and one in a 90's tuxedo jacket and blouse out of the disco era, with modern hairstyles. The book itself is a period piece about two middle aged English women in the early 1800's. The real characters are in their 40's and one is plump while the other has gray hair. Why not show this sort of women, and why not spring for anything remotely like realistic clothes and hairstyles (you can see examples of Georgian fashions at the time here: http://wemakehistory.com/Fashion/Geor...)?
Far from being campy, the book itself actually quite feminist, historic and serious. One of the heroines is a beekeeper who's in a marriage in name only (her husband and her brother are the true couple, who spend their time at sea so they can be together) and the other is a widow who runs a printing press. The women's friendship develops over time into a deep love and lust, but neither thinks the other feels the same.
Along the way, there is a ton of historic information about what was going on at the time with the king who tried to charge his wife with adultery to obtain a divorce, women's rights and specifically wives' rights, and also beekeeping and things like how printing presses worked. There is a ton about how Penelope cares for the bees. The author either raises bees herself or really did her research on historic beekeeping practices. As an American, I didn't know any of this history about the Queen Caroline and it was somewhat interesting but I also felt a bit like I was trying to keep up with someone else's family history after jumping into it.
It's a very slow moving romance, and it's as much a period novel and a novel about bees, women's rights and British history as it is a romance. The characters are likeable but I didn't really feel the passion as much as it was described. And while you get through 2/3 of the book before there's any sex, when there is some there really is some. I never really thought I'd learn the name for vintage British wooden sex toys or their rather endearing names for lady parts, but now I know. :)
All in all it's a very well done period novel but it's hard to pin down who it would be best for. The story is sweet and the characters are likeable. If you like period romances (and bees and British history!), it will likely be a great fit.
I was so happy to get my hands on an ARC after loving the first book in the series, The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics. I dove into this one knowing one of the main character and expecting to learn a few things about bee-keeping.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The romance was what interested me the most even though I liked the plot as well. I ended up rating it four and not five stars because it was too political for my taste. I didnt care at all about the Royals and I wish the story would have focused a little more on the romance. It was a little tiring, to be honest but I didn't mind too much.
Agatha and Penelope are two older women. One had a very happy marriage and is now widowed and a mother of an adult son (Agatha) and the other is the wife to her brother's lover and a successful bee-keeper. Penelope has never loved men and therefore, she knew marriage was never going to be for her. However, when the two women meet, they slowly fall in love and end up figuring out they didn't have to spend the rest of their lives alone.
It was good and sweet. My only complain would be that I would have loved the book to focus a bit less on the plot and political aspect and more on the romance / relationship.
I'm so excited for the next book! Though I have no idea who the main characters are going to be. I hope it will still be f/f.
The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows was a delightful read! It definitely had great promise and I had some high expectations after loving the first one ( I five starred it) so I was expecting some things with this one and I will be honest while it had some factors that I did enjoy, it just didn't quite work for me. The biggest issue that I had with this one here is that there is cheating. One of the protaganists is married, and even though he is a ocean away, they are still legally married so I did struggle with that aspect all the way through the book. In fact, it really put me off. I just don't care for cheating at all no matter the circumstance. Then another factor is the modernisms in this book. There were some situations in here that are not historically authentic at all. Like for example, the situation with Agatha's son and refusing to marry and the fact that so many people that Agatha talked to agreed with her son and his girl. I am sorry but that wouldn't have been the case in historical times when marriage would be expected or they would practically be shunned by society. This would even be the case even 20-30 years ago let alone a couple hundred years lol And there were some phrases here and there that just wouldn't have been said back then. So while I did enjoy this story as a whole, it just didn't quite do it for me. I still plan on reading the third book though, I am hoping that it is much better than my experience with this one here. I did enjoy the actual romance between these two though, and this author definitely knows how to write sensuality in such a beautiful way. I absolutely loved those moments and seeing the small moments between these two that was so tender and sweet!
This is one of the "other" historical fiction books I'd read recently (which I mention because I included this note in the other historical fiction book review I just wrote).
I loved the first book I read by Waite, which is also the first book in this series. Loved so much I actually acquired a physical copy of the book (I've started getting physical copies of lesbian fiction books I've loved). Unfortunately, this second book I've read by Waite was not as good as the first.
This book involves two women of an certain age, older than the normal romance book main characters, who are both . . . I forget what the term was. Business class? Not working class, and not upper titled class. Agatha Griffin owns and runs a printing business, while Penelope Flood (ah, Trade class) has money from her families boat related business. Penelope spends her time, though, maintaining her own bees, and helping maintain other people's bees.
That's how the two leads meet - Agatha, while visiting one of her outlying print shops (described as a warehouse in the book description, and while it is, it is also an active print shop) in a small town, finds that a colony of bees have actively taken over a section of her warehouse. Agatha's mother-in-law (toss in: her husband is dead) lives in the same town and Agatha visits to get some bee help (mother-in-law has bees of her own, but isn't capable, any longer, of moving around much). Mother-in-law (and shesh I wish I had a name to put here, yes yes there was one, I just don't remember) directs Agatha to get help from Penelope.
So, the two meet. Become friends. Then more. Penelope's husband, meanwhile, is off with her brother sailing ships and stuff. This is one of those few occasions when I had no problem with married woman finding a romantic relationship outside of the marriage. The book description is misleading, by the way. And I have no idea what the "the man who once gave her refuge." is referencing. Eh, whatever.
I'm not really sure why this book ended up being more than a star less than the first book I read by Waite. This one seemed more interested in bees, printing, and politics than romance. But the first book also had something like that dynamic, if I remember correctly (well, not bees, etc., but other stuff being important than just (or possible more important than) romance).
I liked both main characters. I, for the most part, liked the story, but . . . I was a little too disconnected from the romance part of the story.