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Feminine Pursuits #3

The Hellion's Waltz

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It’s not a crime to steal a heart...

Sophie Roseingrave hates nothing more than a swindler. After her family lost their piano shop to a con man in London, they’re trying to start fresh in a new town. Her father is convinced Carrisford is an upright and honest place, but Sophie is not so sure. She has grave suspicions about silk-weaver Madeline Crewe, whose stunning beauty doesn’t hide the fact that she’s up to something.

All Maddie Crewe needs is one big score, one grand heist to properly fund the weavers’ union forever. She has found her mark in Mr. Giles, a greedy draper, and the entire association of weavers and tailors and clothing merchants has agreed to help her. The very last thing she needs is a small but determined piano-teacher and composer sticking her nose in other people’s business. If Sophie won’t be put off, the only thing to do is to seduce her to the cause.

Will Sophie’s scruples force her to confess the plot before Maddie gets her money? Or will Maddie lose her nerve along with her heart?

384 pages, ebook

First published June 15, 2021

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About the author

Olivia Waite

15 books825 followers
Olivia Waite writes erotic, historical, and paranormal romance -- sometimes all three at once. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with the love of her life and their mischievous miniature dachshund.

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Displaying 1 - 29 of 402 reviews
Profile Image for Lex Kent.
1,682 reviews8,699 followers
June 14, 2021
3.25 Stars. I’m a big fan of this series and was excited to read this third installment. While I did like it, I’m sorry to say that it was by far my least favorite of the series. This was a pandemic book and while I give authors credit for being able to write during one, I do think this book was affected since it was missing that bit of magic that her other books have.

While this is a WLW, historic-fiction book, it is also what I call a “heist” book. One of the mains is a bit of a Robin Hood who is recruiting people to take down this villainous character so that women can have better workers rites. While I like these types of books, and I had fun seeing this particular plot unfold, I was not happy with the villain character. We are told over and over how horrible he is, but we never really experience his villainous ways. Instead of being really excited to see if these characters can pull off taking this bad guy down, I was more like, “okay, I guess we’ll see” because my excitement was so tempered. We needed some POV scenes experiencing the pain he caused and I think Waite missed out on a big opportunity to do that. There was a story, which took place in the past, that almost had a fable like quality that we get sort of lazily told. Had Waite turned that story into a prologue, that we as readers could experience firsthand, she would have made me “hate” the bad guy and really care about his outcome, instead of feeling so-so.

This book is also a romance but that part is unfortunately too rushed for my personal tastes. I liked the two romances in the previous books so I was surprised to feel more of a disconnect here. We basically go from insta-lust to insta-love, and it surprised me but not in a good way. I did really like their physical chemistry, and I thought the sex scenes were well written, but I did not believe in a deeper emotional chemistry and connection. Everything was just happening too fast. In the same way Waite made a villain we are more “told’ about, she made a romance that we are more “told” about instead of actually experiencing.

While I have some pretty big complaints, this is still a Waite book. The writing is still good and I was hooked into the story enough that I read in one sitting. Unfortunately, this book just felt rushed and like maybe Waite was not into the characters as much as her previous books, and because of that I wasn’t either. In the end I’m still glad I read this, since I really like this series, but it just wasn’t Waite’s best.

An ARC was given to me for a review
Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,051 reviews48.9k followers
July 2, 2021
was this swoony? nah. was it kinda slutty in the best way? absolutely. if you like historicals and the idea of a ff historical but are kinda like "eh idk about having to be covertly lady lovin" i thought this did a good job at not really having potential persecution as a plot point.
Profile Image for aarya.
1,247 reviews
April 25, 2021
2021 Spring Bingo (#SpringIntoLoveBingo🌷): Queer Historical

"Not for the first time, Sophie thought what a shame it was she couldn’t marry a woman. It’s not that men didn’t please her—Sophie liked a strong nose and a well-turned calf and a man who knew what to do with his hands—but there were just so many lovely women around. Such a waste to have to discount them as possible spouses."

Now that the Feminine Pursuits trilogy is over, it's interesting to analyze all three installments and marvel at how different they are. Whether it's a slow-burn friends-to-lovers with an epistolary element or a witty heist to swindle the rich, the books are wildly different in character backgrounds and pace. I know readers who adored Celestial Mechanics but were put off by Waspish Widows' languid romance (and vice versa for different reasons!) — the author doesn't want to write the same book over and over again, choosing to experiment with new styles and character experiences. Yet the books share a similar core that binds the series together.

Operating as standalones, they (A Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics, The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, and The Hellion's Waltz) share a love for craft and a gentle determination to improve the community. Waite isn't interested in writing misogyny-free historicals nor denying other evils of British society, but what makes the series so satisfying are the small victories that don't feel small at all. No, no one is toppling the aristocracy or changing the course of history. But in the relatively small scope of the book's setting, the triumph over Terrible Men before the HEA creates a biting pleasure. Biting because my rejoicing over a fictional villain's misfortune is equivalent to my pleasure in witnessing the romantic resolution.

I don't want to spoil too much about The Hellion's Waltz, but it has a (relatively) fast romantic burn compared to earlier installments. I loved how most of the conflict stemmed externally and not "oh no, we can't be together because X [our family, society, etc] will object!" The community was so... accepting, and I nearly cried at how lovely Sophie's rambunctious family was. Apparently good fictional families make me weepy because they are scarce in my recent reads! Someone smarter than me should write about the music/craft aspects of this book, because my expert opinion is "it was good." 😅 I was going to compare it to The Queen's Gambit (without the substance abuse and drama) because both TQG and Waite's romances have an immersive ability to make me care about a craft that I lack interest/knowledge in.

I won't ramble on, but I'm really going to miss this series and I hope Waite writes more historicals. On a light note to end on: I will say the lack of piano sex was a missed opportunity. 😂

Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for danerys.
451 reviews217 followers
February 24, 2022
l 49% l

ummmmm if that wasn’t the most forgettable thing ive ever read

i picked this up at the bookstore because it was ~cheap~ and i’d never read historical romance regency type shit before and the cover was also very gay so naturally i was intrigued.

and now i’m sitting here, having finished the book a day ago, having absolutely no idea how to review it because i have absolutely no idea what happened.

maybe it’s me, maybe i skimmed the book too much without realizing it (very possible) or maybe i’m losing my memory (if so then send 🤡 help🤡)

this seemed fine and all, it wasn’t very compelling or interesting to me so i didn’t really care and maybe that’s why i have no idea what happened, but for the most part i enjoyed reading it and i would say it was an overall pleasant experience to read.

the characters seemed like nice enough people but i couldn’t really connect to them and the plot was just wayyyyy not in my attention span

i liked the town and the aesthetics i guess. idk.

guys i have nothing to say about this book.

it was literally fine. i recommend it ig

sophie kinda annoyed me with how innocent she was and i don’t really believe she would have so much trauma from literally just having one performance going sorta badly that wasn’t even her fault?? just because some guy tricked them and got some money? like it’s fine no one was hurt and nothing even happened to her??? but i don’t wanna invalidate anyones feelings here

and then maddie was just really random and didn’t even have a personality she was introduced as sort of like a ~bad girl~ and then that was just completely dropped so idek what to think.

the romance was cute ig but very insta-love which is not it for me. they didn’t really seem to have much tension or chemistry but they seemed to like each other fine.

someone pls tell me it was intentionally trying to make me laugh

guys if you’re curious go see for yourself lmao 😭

id also like to clarify that i wasn’t expecting this book to be a literary masterpiece, so i wasn’t disappointed in any way and it was just fine to me

but yea don’t go into this with high expectations

that’s all.


2.75 stars


✔︎ bi mc
✔︎ sapphic mc
✔︎ sapphic relationship
✔︎ poly sc(s)
Profile Image for Leah.
373 reviews137 followers
July 14, 2021
3.5 Stars

This is a hard one for me to rate. I know people say “your mileage may vary” a lot on here but I think it really works for this particular book. “The Hellion’s Waltz” is the third and last (to my knowledge) installment to the Feminine Pursuits series.

Sophie Roseingrave has just recently moved to Carrisford from London after her family is swindled by a con man. Not long after she gets there, she sees what she thinks is another con in action Worried that her family could one day be targeted, she tries to put a stop to it and almost ruins the con Maddie Crewe is trying to pull off. This time though, the con is for the better good of the people and town and Sophie ends up deciding to help rather than stop it.

What I liked: I liked learning about the weavers and factories and the history of how the women had to adjust to all the changes. I liked Maddie and the people of Carrisford and I really wish we had gotten more from them. Waite made it so easy to root for them because you know there were real people like this in the past. All of the freedoms women have today come from people like Maddie and the other townspeople. The con itself was entertaining. It went a little long but I enjoyed the different ways these smart people came up with to outsmart their bad guy, though the ending seemed a little anticlimactic for all the hoopla everyone went through. Also, the writing was exceptional as well.

What I didn’t like so much: the romance. This is an instalust story and while that didn’t bother me so much, the fact that a lot of the relationship happens off page did. It made it hard to buy into the relationship too much when we saw mostly surface level development. There’s more telling of how things progress rather than showing and that always turns me off of the romance. It made the ending seem more out of character for one person when I never saw the depth of their feelings to back up what happens.

Overall, even though the romance didn’t do much for me, I still enjoyed this. But I wouldn’t recommend reading it for the romance alone. It’s fun and I love to see strong female characters in a regent times setting. If you enjoyed the previous books in the series there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this as well.

I received an ARC from NetGalley and Avon Books in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Gabriella.
215 reviews43 followers
September 17, 2021
4.5 stars. After a year of waiting for the next book in the Feminine Pursuits series, The Hellion’s Waltz didn’t disappoint! As expected, this is a wholesome sapphic romance between two badass, intelligent women, featuring a glorious cast of diverse side characters. I will say I liked the other two books better, since this one sacrifices some of the romantic development for the heist sub-plot, but I still enjoyed it a great deal! As always with Waite’s books, I was constantly googling historical terminology (this time, I went down a rabbit hole of looking at 18th-century automata).

Sophie Roseingrave (bi) is a talented pianist and piano tuner who works for her dad’s company. She’s avoided playing the piano for a few years because of a traumatic experience, but her love of the instrument remains. Madeline Crewe (also bi!) is a shrewd, charismatic silk weaver intent on taking down a con man harming the silk weaving industry. Maddie and Sophie don’t exactly like each other upon first meet: Sophie thinks Maddie is up to no good, while Maddie thinks Sophie is nothing more than a wallflower. However, as the two passionate women begin to work together for Maddie’s cause, they get to know each other and start to find each other irresistible.

Olivia Waite is sooo good at writing romance. Maddie has such a way with words: some of the things Maddie says to Sophie are knee-weakening. And the passion that Sophie hides underneath her unassuming facade — and the way she expresses herself through music — is beautiful. Though the romantic scenes in this book are WONDERFUL, I would have been happier with more romantic content and development. I was a bit caught off guard when the pair fell in love so fast, and didn’t find their relationship very believable at first.

I particularly loved Sophie’s journey toward playing the piano again. Even though I haven’t been through what Sophie has, her arc hit close to home as someone who’s had her own heartache over instrument performance. I also loved nerding out over the musical terminology and descriptions!

The heist aspect of the book is fun, but as I think back on this book, it’s not what stands out to me. I’m definitely someone who’s here for the romance and historical details in a Waite book, but if you’re in the mood for a fun sapphic heist book, this might be the perfect one for you!

Even though this is my least favorite book from Olivia Waite so far, it’s still wonderful and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

content warnings: manipulation (past), torture (past), graphic sex

[sometime in 2020: the title alone has me REELING! I hope there's some saucy sapphic waltzing in this book!

edit: that synopsis, hell yeah]
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,857 reviews5,629 followers
May 4, 2021
*3.5 stars*

I keep reading an enjoying all of Olivia Waite's WLW historical romances, and I hope she never stops writing them. Even though each book has been just a bit off for me, I'm loving how this author is making F/F romance more mainstream. Bring it on!

Where The Hellion's Waltz really shines is with its dynamic plot and pacing. The plotline was exciting and suspenseful, and that's what really kept me reading. I loved these daring women who took control back in their lives, and I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how they were going to pull everything off.

I also really enjoyed Sophie's accepting, musical family. I thought the piano details were very rich and interesting, and even though I'm not musically inclined (to say the least), I still dug it all.

However, where the story faltered for me was in the romance department. I'm a sucker for a slow-burn romance, and here it was insta-lust city. I felt like these two had this intense connection after one minute that didn't quite translate to the reader. The lust and the fast romance felt very underdeveloped, and that's where the story lost me.

I think I actually would have preferred this not be a romance at all and just a story of women in the textile industry getting revenge on an unscrupulous businessman. The romance just wasn't there, and for a story that is supposed to be a romance book, it let me down a bit.

I'm all for Olivia Waite and her writing, but I think the romance needs to get to the same level as her imaginative, interesting plotlines. Still, I'm already ready for the next book, so more ladies loving ladies, please.

*copy provided in exchange for an honest review*

Profile Image for Silvia .
635 reviews1,402 followers
August 7, 2021
I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via Edelweiss for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

I really loved this whole series but this book was probably my favorite. All three books have very different romance dynamics and I really think that works well in a series, because it changes things up, but at the same time a lot of people will have favorites and that's okay! I don't know if this was objectively the best book of all three, but it was surely the most fun plot-wise and exactly what I needed.

The common thread in these books, other than showing the lives of queer women in historic times, is how, while acknowledging the homophobia of the outside world, the environment around the protagonists is safe and predominantly queer-friendly (if not downright queer). Something else I really love is how horny these women are allowed to be with each other in a way that's completely unapologetic and just - yes please.

So in short I highly recommend this whole series, but if you're unsure about the genre I definitely recommend starting with this one (the reading order doesn't matter a lot, they can all stand on their own).
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.4k followers
October 16, 2022
She’d always been fierce that way: the more someone needed, the more she wanted to give.

In this third installment of Olivia Waite’s f/f historical novels, piano teacher Sophie Roseingrave finds herself caught up investigating the schemes of silk-weaver Maddie Crewe, who aims to take down a greedy tailer named Mr. Giles. It’s a sort of mashup between a romance and a heist novel.

I think Olivia Waite has such a clever way of drawing characters with realistic insecurities who still never feel pathetic. When her characters fail to freely love each other, you feel the reasons why. Never falling onto miscommunication tropes, she truly builds these people as complex.

However, I really do concur with most of the other reviews on this page that this is decidedly the weakest character development and arc work from this series. Additionally, there's less going on with the heist. I absolutely agreed with Lex’s point about the presence of a prologue being a potential way to counteract this.

Overall, even though this one wasn't a spectacular read, I'm a big fan of this author and would highly recommend especially the first novel of this series.

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Profile Image for WhiskeyintheJar.
1,287 reviews528 followers
June 18, 2021
2.5 stars

Her father may have begun to recover from Mr. Verrinder’s fraud. But Sophie still had a long, long way to go.

The Roseingrave family have moved from London to Carrisford after falling prey to a swindler. Their oldest daughter Sophie feels at fault for not seeing what was happening and this has led her to step away from her music playing. When she sees what looks like some woman about to be taken advantage of she tries to step-in.
Maddie Crewe is angry at seeing her friends and family being taken advantage of, so with their help, she's running a swindle on the biggest perpetrator, Mr. Giles. When a new woman in town inadvertently almost endangers it and then catches on, she has to trust her instincts and attraction with letting her in.

This woman was how she’d imagined every cruel heartbreaker in every old ballad she’d ever heard. If you were lucky, you pined away for love of her. If you weren’t lucky, you won her, lost her, and were damned. Here was Sophie, craving damnation.

The Hellion's Waltz is third in the Feminine Pursuits series, I haven't read the first two but I never had a sense of being lost starting here. We're first introduced to Sophie's musical family, her former opera singer mother, piano builder father, and musically inclined siblings, Sophie herself plays the piano and composes music. The story and characters take on this musical vibe, I thought the beginning gave us the talented orchestra, laid out the movements, but the second half and ending finished in a diminuendo.

Madeleine Crewe was a ribbon weaver and the current chairwoman of the Carrisford Weavers’ Library (formerly Weavers’ Library and Reform Society, changed for prudence’s sake when the magistrates had started to look askance at any group with the word reform in their name).

The story was led more by Sophie and her issues with emotionally and financially recovering from a swindler. Pairing her with Maddie and having Maddie in the process of a swindle provided a great opportunity for some angst. However, this an Avon Impulse print, which means you'll get more heat and to it quicker. The moral quandaries are dealt with pretty swiftly from Sophie's side and she is mentally lusting after Maddie from first sight and their physical relationship starts around forty percent, the same time Maddie lets Sophie in on the scheme. Sophie had a passion in her to be a star performer and Maddie saw that she was living her life in the way she thought her mom would, not in the way Maddie wanted to, and in-between and with those wants and desires, they connected. Even though this is an Impulse, I still felt like they hadn't spent enough time together on page or have that relationship development I need to emotionally believe and connect with them. I felt like I had just been lulled into the world and then was jarred with the suddenness of the explicit love scenes.

“It’s good to have friends in times like these,” she said. Her thumb curved underneath their twined fingers and stroked Sophie’s palm. “Friends with strong hearts— and beautiful hands.”

Maddie was a strong character and I almost found myself wishing the story had been led more by her, she's the one that is from Carrisford and is connected to the townspeople (secondary characters). The characters and world the author created was my favorite part as they breathed such life into the setting. There's also a sense of time with not only mentions of the Combination and Spitalfields Acts and Peterloo but connections with the characters and how they affected them, gave such depth to the characters and world. There was also a little story woven in about the legend of a “Jenny Hull” that had such weightiness to it and connection to some of the characters, that this small additive just about stole the show for me.

It was an enormous idea, so big she’d never dared to dream it on her own. To play before the king and his courtiers— to perform her own pieces, and take students of her choice, at rates that were enough to support herself— to be part of a society of knowledge and talent and passion for music . . . To hold nothing back. And to have what she wanted most in the world.

The swindle itself, started off dancing but felt almost forgotten at times, then dragged on in the latter half, started to become overly complicated, and finally landed without much oomph for me. The romance lacked oomph for me also, Sophie's feelings didn't quite develop beyond lusty and Maddie's final decision to give us the happily ever after didn't have the emotional development or foundation that makes my heart beat in these moments. I did feel the love in Sophie's relationship with her father, I thought it brought such warmth to the pages, what I was missing in the more heated romantic relationship. At around fifty percent I felt like I was reading two stories, the two parts of plot and relationship building weren't gelling for me; this was a good story but not necessarily a strong romance. You will, however, delight in the title after you finish the book.

“You, my love, are a nightingale.”
Profile Image for Althea.
421 reviews142 followers
June 9, 2021
3.5/5 Stars

So, The Hellion’s Waltz was my first read of Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuit series, though I’ve had it on my radar for quite some time now, particularly the first novel, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics. I’m really glad that I was approved for an eARC of this third companion novel in the series, though, as it finally gave me the nudge I needed to dive into this sapphic historical romance!

The Hellion’s Waltz follows Sophie Roseingrave who, alongside her family, has had to move from London to the smaller and quieter town of Carrisford after their family lost a significant amount of money as well as their piano shop after being swindled by a conman. After setting up a newer, more modest store in the sleepy village, Sophie decides to have a look in a local drapers’ store where she happens upon the beginnings of new con being orchestrated by the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Maddie Crewe. Maddie desperately needs to take down this greedy draper, but if Sophie doesn’t stop sticking her nose in, things may go very badly very quickly.

Straight off the bat, this is such a readable book. It may have taken me longer than usual to get through it due to work commitments, but when I did have time to read it I found myself flying through it. Despite the somewhat predictable nature that comes with romance novels in general, the plot is one of, if not the most, exciting I’ve had the chance to read in any romance novel so far. Though, much like is the case with the greedy draper, Mr. Giles, a lot of the plotting went over my head, as I’m not all that familiar with looms and fabrics and the likes, I loved the construction of the scheme and seeing things all fall into place with everyone working together for a common good! Sophie’s own story gets weaved (pun intended) into all of this too, as we see her slowly but surely trying to grow and heal from her trauma. We see her love for playing the piano and composing start to flourish after she buried it all away in the aftermath of her family’s troubles, and it was very sweet to see!

The characters were also really wonderful, and I’m so glad that this was a dual perspective novel, as I don’t think that it would work well if it were written otherwise. Sophie is a very gentle, almost timid, young woman at the start of the book. She has very strong morals and she is not afraid to stand up for them and for herself. Her passion for music is very apparent and it was really lovely seeing her grow through that. Maddie was definitely my favourite of the two – she’s a ribbon maker by day and a con artist by night. She is very confident and knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. We see her dealing with her own difficult family background throughout the book, but also the love and strength that she pours into her found family too. We see some wonderful side characters throughout the book, too, including south Asian side characters, sapphic side characters, Jewish side characters and the loveliest polyamorous trio that I really hope Olivia Waite writes more about in the future!

There were a couple of concrete things, however, that did impede my enjoyment, as well as one silly little thing that just threw me completely out of the story – so let’s start with that one first. There are a couple of sex scenes in the book which are overall written pretty well, but due due this being a historical romance, the author has taken some liberties with the language and uses some rather archaic terms throughout, including the offender at hand – ‘cunny’. I’m sure you can tell what that word is referring to, but I never want to read it again in my life, I do not care if that in turn makes the story historically inaccurate! I just hate it! As for the actual points that led me to lower my rating, first off I constantly found myself confused by the large number of characters in the book. There were some that I could easily identify by their relation to other characters, but I kept feeling like we were being bombarded by names with no real development of the characters, so I was continuously forgetting who was who and I do think it affected how I understood the story and the plot. I also didn’t love the romance. It was mild hate to love but it was so rushed. The pair met one day, kissed a few days later, and then maybe a week after that were magically in love and discussing possible marriage in the future! I just didn’t enjoy it and I think it would have benefitted to having that hate/mistrust last just a bit longer.

Overall, though, this was a really fun historical romance that I recommend for the plot alone, and I’ll definitely be picking up the other two companion novels in this series soon!

Thanks to Edelweiss and Avon Books for an eARC in return for an honest review!

Want more sapphic books? You can find me here: Book Blog | Twitter | Instagram
Profile Image for Jude in the Stars.
847 reviews463 followers
July 5, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,037 reviews3,437 followers
April 22, 2022
While I still had a reasonably good time with this, The Hellion's Waltz is definitely my least favorite of the series thus far. This one follows a seamstress and a musician/piano teacher involved in a plan to take down a villainous merchant.

For whatever reason this one lacked some of the charm of the other two books and the romance felt underdeveloped- jumping from instant physical attraction very quickly to love in a way I didn't find as believable or compelling as earlier books. It certainly got steamy, but I really wanted more emotionally from the relationship. This felt more focused on the other plot elements, which blended interesting information about workers rights and the industrial revolution with a kind of convoluted plot and villain who I had zero strong feelings about. I pretty much agree with what this review had to say: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Sadly not a home run for me and I was hoping for more, but still not a bad book and I will continue to pick up whatever Olivia Waite puts out.
Profile Image for Howard.
1,172 reviews73 followers
April 23, 2022
4.5 Stars for The Hellion’s Waltz: Feminine Pursuits (audiobook) by Olivia Waite read by Morag Sims.

This was another wonderful adventure. I love how witty and clever the writing is. The characters are so much fun. I’ve really enjoyed this series.
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
547 reviews3,543 followers
January 31, 2022
I unfortunately did not like this one. For a romance book, it really lacked romance. I feel like the author was really invested in the subplot and as a result it took over and the relationship wasn't developped at all. I didn't see how or why Sophie and Maddie came to lover each other, and they're own personal struggles with love and relationships were brushed aside and magically disappeared. I don't know, man. This was a bit of a mess.
Profile Image for Kaye.
2,970 reviews33 followers
March 24, 2021
Delightful historical fiction, f/f romance. This is the third in the Feminine Pursuits series and I found it the most enjoyable to me. Sophie Roseingrave's family was taken advantage of by a con man and sold everything to pay debts in London. They are starting over in smaller Carrisford opening a musical shop. Sophie tunes pianos and teaches piano lessons. She becomes suspicious when she sees an odd transaction involving Maddie Crewe a silk weaver and Mr. Giles a shop owner. Maddie is continuing her mothers goal of helping the weavers' union against unfair factory owners and shop keepers. Sophie and Maddie make a wonderful pair as Maddie explains their cause and invites her help.

Every time I read Waite I learn things about the time period and laws of the day. This touches on plights of factory workers and unions. Making the story about a large con made for a very fun read. I was happy to see the supportiveness of Sophie' s parents to her relationship with Maddie. And Waite makes it all feel true to the time period. Thank you Avon and Harper Voyager for an ARC ebook in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kate.
94 reviews39 followers
Want to read
July 2, 2020
what if ,,, there will be dancing scenes ,,,, the tension i’m already quaking ,,,,
Profile Image for Amy Marsden.
Author 4 books40 followers
March 8, 2023
I went into this cautiously because I absolutely loved The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics but didn't gel with The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows. Unfortunately, this was more a Waspish Widows than a Celestial Mechanics for me.

I've seen a lot of criticism for how quickly Sophie and Maddie got together, but I thought it was refreshing to have characters in a historical book know and accept their sexual orientation and not be afraid to act on it. Both Maddie and Sophie knew they liked woman and didn't shy away from each other. It was nice.

Beyond that though, I thought their relationship progressed at breakneck speed, and we didn't see much of it? They slept together a couple of times and suddenly were in love, which, fair enough, can happen, but the development wasn't shown on page, which was disappointing.

The writing and research into the time period was great. I really felt the struggle of the women in that time and was glad Mr. Giles got what was coming to him.

I did notice the author used 'blocks' when referring to the characters walking a certain distance. No. The characters and book are English, we don't say that. Americanisms creeping into places they shouldn't be is a massive pet peeve of mine.

To sum up, a decent book, but nowhere near as good as Celestial Mechanics was.
Profile Image for Cece.
238 reviews57 followers
January 6, 2022
I actually thought this was a lot sharper and more focused than the previous books in the series, but I also think it’s time to admit that this author’s approach doesn’t work for me – there isn’t enough conflict, there’s too much pedagogue, and the relationship development is secondary or non-existent, which reduces the romantic arc into a subplot. There’s nothing wrong with historical fiction with explicit sex scenes, a foregrounded focus on craft and social justice, and romantic background, but that’s not what I’m after when I pick up a genre romance. And, as someone who is primarily interested in seeing two women fall in love and negotiate relationship on page, I’m a little tired of having my expectations foiled.

After reading the first two books in this series, I knew going into this that Olivia Waite writes low conflict romances, so I was relieved and excited to see how much conflict was built into the premise of The Hellion’s Waltz: Maddie is in the middle of a well-intentioned swindle when she runs into Sophie, who is the recent victim of an unscrupulous conman. This set up is so much fun! It also provides a lot of great sexual tension, as Maddie sees through Sophie’s respectable façade and Sophie misidentifies her lust for Maddie as a righteous investigation into possible criminality.

However, just as their delicious tête-à-tête starts really cooking, everything fizzles. Sophie confronts her, Maddie info-dumps the explanation of the con, and – POOF! – Sophie puts aside her scruples, forgets her faintly-tragic-yet-relevant backstory, and immediately takes Maddie’s side. She even offers to help with the crime she was dismayed by a few pages before! And if this had been an isolated incident, I wouldn’t have thought much of it, but their entire relationship is like this. They never have any difficult conversations, disagreements, or miscommunications, nor do they experience personal growth within the context of their dynamic, because every single moment of their connection is completely intuitive, effortless, and flawlessly healthy. There’s no conflict, and thus no structure, which makes the romantic arc feel uninteresting and underdeveloped.

After reading two of Olivia Waite’s books back-to-back, I’ve begun to suspect that this part of the author’s approach is intentional. The book doesn’t contain a narrative of personal growth or relationship development because it isn’t really interested in those things – its project is purely pedagogical. The Hellion’s Waltz wants to teach us about the textile industry in nineteenth century Britain, explain the delicate art of piano tuning, and speechify about the necessity of collective action and the transformative power of unions, but it does not want to examine the inner lives of its characters or their relationship.

Maddie and Sophie aren’t three-dimensional characters with recognizable human flaws because they’re not meant to be. Instead, they’re instructive models for how to live. As aspirational progressives with unattainably virtuous lives, their relationship can’t contain conflict because it would interrupt their exemplary status. But, in the world of this book, where everyone says exactly the right thing at the exactly the right time to the exact right person and the only person who doesn’t is the moustache-twirling evil capitalist, the pedagogy has completely drowned out the pleasure. Reading this book felt a little like being told I’m looking fat and then being presented with a plate full of disastrously overcooked vegetables. As an imperfectly progressive/emotionally messy person with messy relationships, I didn’t appreciate the implicit message or its prescription.

So, what are we left with? Instead of focusing on the relationship between Maddie and Sophie, this book invests in a wide-lens/low-conflict portrait of a community battling capitalism and Sophie’s triumph over performance anxiety. And again, all of this is exceedingly low stakes: we don’t ever experience the villain’s behavior first hand (his villainy only exists in exposition) and Sophie’s ascension to the highest-status echelons of music professionalism is never in doubt – she even agrees to completely recreate her most traumatic memory, without a care in the world! But amongst the overlarge cast of characters and the overly complicated scheme to get revenge on the bad guy, I was struck by how thoroughly this book sets aside genre convention. The romance isn’t the A-plot here. Sometimes, it’s not even the B-plot! And there’s nothing wrong with that, if you’re into historical fiction with romantic subplots, but that’s not what I’m into and I don’t like buying a genre romance and then finding out the romance is largely absent or inconsequential.

Ugh, this has been a hard review to write for so many reasons. I want to support Olivia Waite’s work because traditionally published sapphic historical romance is scarce, especially compared to the male/male equivalent. As someone who is politically aligned with her, I also appreciate that she doesn’t fetishize extreme wealth, depict sexual ignorance as innately attractive, or morally justify colonialism as a paternalistic endeavor. I’ll always be in favor of more bisexual or lesbian protagonists, fat bodies, working class radicals, and middle class professionals in this sub-genre too. Despite all those really lovely qualities, I think it’s finally time to throw in the towel: this author isn’t for me.
Profile Image for Heron.
257 reviews29 followers
April 2, 2021
“This was how great crimes began: with a single secret question and no law around to overhear.”

Olivia Waite singlehandedly converted me into a historical romance appreciator; The Hellion’s Waltz made my (totally unofficial and mental) list of most anticipated reads for 2021. The cover alone promised the sort of dynamic I’m totally into. To my utter joy, The Hellion’s Waltz delivered everything I’ve come to expect from the Feminine Pursuits series but with fresh characters and new dynamics brimming with chemistry.

The protagonists of this novel are Sophie Roseingrave, who has come to the small town of Carrisford after her and her father were swindled by a con artist and lost almost everything. Meanwhile, Maddie Crews is a bold, brazen local and talented weaver who is sick of her guild being taken advantage of by one of the town’s merchants—and she’s not afraid to do something about it.

This was what I like to think of as a gentle enemies to lovers romance—i.e. there’s not malice in the rivalry—and I dig that dynamic a lot. Furthermore, if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Geez, I really don’t have the patience for slow burns,” I can confirm you won’t be disappointed with the progression of the romance in this novel. Both heroines are well developed and stand on their own as well as when they share page time together. And y’all, the SPICE. The SENSUALITY! The EMOTIONS! Women being completely unapologetic about their love for other women delights me, and I had no shortage of that.

Two things I have really appreciated in Waite’s previous books continue in this one. First, the care which Waite takes to nail the nitty gritty details of the professions impresses me; I learned more about pianos than I have ever learned in one sitting as I googled stuff for this book as well as about weaving. Second, it’s a no homophobia universe despite being historical fiction, which has previously turned me off because of the insistence on including it for “accuracy”.

Have I pre-ordered this already? Yes. Do I think you should pre-order this? Also yes, especially if you liked the two previous novels in the Feminine Pursuits series. The Hellion’s Waltz delightfully weaves together quietly and not-so-quietly fierce heroines with art, justice, love, and family within its pages to create a hopeful, romantic balm.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Avon for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Lindsay  pinkcowlandreads.
436 reviews64 followers
June 8, 2021
My favourite pairing so far in the Feminine Pursuits series!!!

After her family is a victim of a fraud that cases them to sell off their music business in London and more to a small town, Sophie will do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen again to anyone she knows...

Weaver and activist, Maddie has finally put together a plan to rid the town and the weaving community of Mr. Giles. He has been taking advantage of the workers and getting rich from their labour for too long.

All is going to plan until new resident, Sophie puts herself in the mix, not knowing who the real swindler is! Maddie tries to keep the captivating musician at arms length- but their attraction is not to be denied!

Soon they find out they make one heck of a pair!

Beautiful female friendships, open acceptance with family/ friends for alternative lifestyles and kicka$$ females working together for the betterment of all! What more could you want?!?!

This was a great with excellent characters- add this one to your TBR!

The Hellions Waltz by Olivia Waite is scheduled to release June 15th, 2021.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperCollins Publishers, Avon Books through Edelweiss+. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Blog link: https://pinkcowlandreads.blogspot.com...

#TheHellionsWaltz #OliviaWaite #Edelweiss #pinkcowlandreads
Profile Image for Paige.
858 reviews82 followers
June 8, 2021
2 stars.

I was so excited when I got approved for this ARC, and desperately wanted to like it. The premise sounds amazing — a piano tuner and a silk weaver teaming up for a con? Yes please!

It ... didn’t work for me. If it wasn’t an advanced copy, I almost definitely would have DNFed it. As it was, it took me nearly two months to slough through.

I just didn’t care? About the main couple, their relationship, the con, any of it. It felt flat and uninteresting to me. I didn’t buy that they were in love (though I did greatly appreciate that the 80% crisis was the external con, rather than a shoehorned in fight between our heroines).

The writing is solid though, and the premise has such promise. So your mileage may vary on this one.

Steam: 2/5🔥

Thank you to NetGalley for providing an advanced copy; this review was left voluntarily.
Profile Image for Poptart19 (the name’s ren).
891 reviews4 followers
March 30, 2021
4 stars

A tragic, decades old love story, a Robin Hood-esque plot to swindle a notorious swindler, & a love that draws together two talented young women. This is a beautifully written f/f romance, with lots of music & musicianry (& some silk weaving!) involved.

[What I liked:]

•There are lots of creative story elements: Jenny Hull, the “electrical” silk, the jacquard loom, Mr. Verrinder, etc. It’s not a cliched or predictable story.

•I love textiles. I love fabric & spinning & weaving & lace making & embroidery, & several of the characters & one MC all work in the textiles industry. That was fun for me to read about! And reasonably well researched & described. I’d say the writing about music & instruments is even more intuitive & nuanced, though I’m not much of a musician myself.

•There are so many great women characters who are independent, have dreams & ambitions, fall in love, and are seen as equals by family members & lovers & friends. It’s refreshing to see nuance here, rather than just a stereotype of an “independent woman” being a tomboy who hates any conventionally feminine pursuits. Nothing wrong with tomboys of course, but imo femme women can be strong & independent people too.

•The romance is sorta...well not exactly insta-lust, but the lust happens before the feelings show up so it’s not really a slow burn romance. More of a learning how to trust again romance. It’s nice, though, & well developed & paced.

•Not only is there an f/f couple, there is also a poly relationship. Yay, representation. For a historical romance, I think the writer found a nice balance between the characters being aware of the consequences of being “out” in a homophobic/monogamous-only society, while managing to not put too much emphasis on homophobia/intolerance as part of the plot. (Always nice to have a not-so-depressing queer love story.)

[What I didn’t like as much:]

•Mr. Giles, as a main villain, could have used some more development. His motives were believable, but he would have been more, say, ominous if he had more depth.

[I received an ARC ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for the book!]

Profile Image for Helen Kord.
323 reviews36 followers
June 8, 2021
TWs/CWs: abuse in workplace, death, trauma, panic attack, asshole people in positions of power, mention of past death

I’m such a huge fan of this series. I really enjoyed the first one, adored the second, and somehow love the third even more. My favourite part is how large a part of this series artistry and creativity are, and how it uplifts traditionally feminine, looked down upon arts and crafts. The first book asked us if crafts like embroidery were really art if they are for practical uses and answered that with a resounding yes. In Hellion’s Waltz, we ask the same question about weaving and patterns (and shockingly, the answer is still yes).

Maddie, a local weaver, plans a heist to take down a shitty local industrialist, help her fellow workers fight for competing wages and get revenge. Sophie, fresh from London where her family lost everything to a fraud, learns of said heists and decides to intervene. Their first few meetings are volatile, one of them ending in some wonderfully angry make outs, but eventually the two women get to know each other, and Maddie shares her plans. Sophie, realizing the cause is just, offers help.

It was beautiful to see these women working so hard to reclaim their agency. Sophie, an amazing piano player and composer, works through the lingering trauma and anxiety related to playing after the events that led her family to leave London. She gets help from a kind and welcoming musician community as well as her loving family. They are so kind and proud of her and I definitely didn’t cry several times through her attempts, absolutely not.

Maddie’s community is wonderful too, comprising of amazing characters from the local working-class queer communities, as well as the local secondhand clothes trade and engineers. Again, they all band together and care about each other so much and work so hard for their goals.

Everything about this book made me feel so warm inside. The community, the characters, their lovely romance, the themes of finding yourself and taking revenge for injustices. I would’ve taken 300 pages more, I loved this book so much.
Profile Image for Jen (mrs-machino).
496 reviews43 followers
July 29, 2021
2.5 stars. I really wanted to like this, the premise seemed adorable, but it dragged and I can’t put my finger on why.
Profile Image for lauraღ.
1,473 reviews60 followers
August 14, 2021
This woman was how she’d imagined every cruel heartbreaker in every old ballad she’d ever heard. If you were lucky, you pined away for love of her. If you weren’t lucky, you won her, lost her, and were damned. 

Here was Sophie, craving damnation.

This was my least favourite of the Feminine Pursuits novels so far, and I'm really surprised about it. This seemed absolutely perfect for me, and while I didn't dislike it in any way, I just found that it didn't grip me or capture my attention or intrigue me in the ways I thought it would.

I thought I would love this because of the characters, and the thing is, I DID love them. Interestingly enough, though this is my least favourite book in the series, these two might be my favourite characters. Sophie and her music-loving family have just moved to town, having been swindled by a con man in London, and losing almost everything. It was a blow to her pride and confidence and heart, and having a character like that fall in love with a con woman is a really interesting plot. Maddie, I really adored. I looooove Robin Hood-esque characters, people from lower classes who set their sight on righting wrongs and punching up. Genuinely my favourite thing! She also had a really cool backstory. I really liked the plot and the insight into the different trades: music and weaving. Waite does so much research and puts so much knowledge into her books. I know people's mileages will vary on this, but that's something I adore! I love learning new stuff, and I love when the B-plot stuff is compelling and fascinating. It's something I've admired in all three books of the series.

So... why didn't I love this? I don't know! As much as I was interested in the plot of this, I often felt a little bored. I wanted to see the villain pay, but more out of the principle of the thing; we never saw enough of him to really get invested and start hating him. This was pretty insta-lusty, which can be okay in a romance, if you later convince me of their love. And that... didn't really happen? I really liked them together, but I never started clutching my chest and yearning for their HEA either. Things just sorta meandered into place, and the romance wasn't well-paced. The writing was wonderful, as Waite's writing always is, but it just wasn't enough to pull this together for me.

Listened to the audiobook as read by Morag Sims, as I've done for all books in the series, and really enjoyed it once again, especially all of her accents. And as a side-note, I really love the cover for this, but like all the other books in this series, it isn't very accurate to the characters. Sophie is fat and considerably shorter than Maddie, and I'm a slut for height difference, so that would have been amazing to see on the cover. I'm so happy that f/f historical romances are getting covers with both leads, but it'd be so nice to have more accurate models. Or illustrated covers! My soul for a f/f historical with a clinch cover.

Anyway, this was good! Just not as good as I'd hoped.
Profile Image for Cait.
996 reviews29 followers
July 8, 2021
“You gladden the eye. It’s something better than beauty.”

what a disappointment.

I would joke that this isn't even low-conflict but rather no-conflict romance, but as kj charles details in a blog post that I coincidentally recently read, conflict really just means obstacles, and I guess...there are obstacles herein...briefly...kind of... ugh.

maddie and sophie have a goddamned easy time of it, which isn't soothing, it's boring.

I enjoyed the lady's guide to conventional mechanics so much (in spite of its disrespect to caroline herschel) that I added it to my favorites shelf, and I noted in my review of the care and feeding of waspish widows that I may have liked it even more. however, book 3 is where it really falls apart for me (and jeez, if you're going to break your title pattern with a book called the hellion's waltz, that title suggests that you're promising a very different book from what this turned out to be).

in addition to having absolutely no conflict [that is not immediately and easily brushed aside], this book also takes place in a 100% accepting world, which might really float some people's boat, but I happen to like a light touch of period-typical homophobia myself (sue me!!!!!!!!!!! like I'm not saying I want hate crimes because believe me I don't but just the tiniest pinch of zest for the stew!!!!), and I was getting a little exasperated, like, really? everybody here is queer and NOBODY, not one person, cares? sure.

but the primary sin, I'd say, is the extent of the instaforeverlove (worse and more powerful than regular instalove). these two women, both of whom are bi and have historically had a lot of casual relationships/hookups with both men and women, get together and just...immediately and without ever saying so understand that they're in it to win it. and look, I get that sometimes you meet somebody and know they're the one. I am somebody who had a lot of relationships and hookups, many of which were casual, before meeting my current girlfriend and being like okay yeah word this is it babey, but like, maddie and sophie never even acknowledged that there might be something different about this relationship compared to their others? they like bone once and then suddenly move to talking about forever, but not in a broaching-the-subject way, more in a very established relationship sort of way. gave me fucking whiplash and in all honesty was insufferable.

the unacknowledged fact of their instaforeverlove is even explicitly acknowledged (maybe somebody read a draft and was like olivia you've gotta acknowledge that they never acknowledged it); sophie thinks to herself, toward the very end, The only other time she’d fallen in love this fast was with Maddie Crewe. lol. not to my taste in the slightest. whatever.

also, as others have noted, this book is a lot more concerned with like, union as noble agent of change and just collective action than it is with, you know, the romance part. it gets a little preachy--“If the work cannot go forward without you,” she countered, “then it is doomed to fail. You cannot base a collective on the effort of a single person. No matter how dedicated that one person may be.”--even as some parts hit uncomfortably close to home--Maddie was still staggered by the relief she felt at stepping down from a job she’d seen as a duty for so many years--and don't get me wrong, glory glory hallelujah and all that, love a good union, framed a poster from my participation in my union's 2019 strike and stuck it up on my bedroom wall and now roxana dueñas stares down at me every night like some sort of modern-day tj eckleburg, but when I'm reading a romance novel I rather expect the romance to be front and center, or at least downstage left and not just waiting in the wings.

even so, waite is a competent writer (I confess to being tickled by the line Sophie couldn’t have called up a more alluring vision of sin if she’d been a hermetic saint with nature’s full range of pharmacopoeia), and I raced through this. in individual moments it's mostly enjoyable; it's only in surveying the whole that I grow disgruntled. since waite wrote this during the pandemic, I want to chalk this up to her thinking that a book like this would be what we'd all want after a spot of global trauma, even though that thought turned out to be a massive misfire for me personally. I'll read her next release, I guess, but she's on thin fucking ice.

miscellaneous other thoughts:

- if anyone came out of this curious about the song sophie's mom sings, here is soprano elisabeth schwarzkopf's take on "die alte"

- I read waite's bit in the acknowledgements about how "neither this book nor its author would be in any kind of shape if it weren’t for the incredible love and flat-out heroism of my husband, Charles. This year was our ten-year wedding anniversary, and the fifth year since I came out as bisexual" and for a moment honestly forgot I was reading an olivia waite book and thought it was cat sebastian. where's my academic study on queer women married to men who write queer romance because I honestly find it very interesting!! like sincerely interesting not in like a snotty oh-isn't-that-interesting sort of way

- I know cover design is typically out of the author’s control, but two thin brunettes on the cover when sophie is textually "round" and, less critically, maddie has auburn hair? lol.
Profile Image for Dide.
1,225 reviews38 followers
August 14, 2021
I think I have read all the previous books in the series and truly appreciate the way the author weaves history in a captivating way.
Unfortunately, this somehow didn't invoke as much appreciation as the predecessors. I just wasn't gripped enough despite my amusement at all the breast references and perhaps my observation of numerous semicolons also didn't help.
Profile Image for Jenia.
413 reviews102 followers
January 21, 2022
How cute is this book!! Gotta say, my fave historical romance are those with a strong labour rights component lmao. I love how both heroines had a strong passion for their respective professions too (music and weaving/political organising respectively). Also so glad to be reading again, it's been like a month! Hope this book breaks the 2021 curse!
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