3.5 / 5 stars
Read in July 2020
Book #2 in the Feminine Pursuits series
Published July 28, 2020
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 series 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 queer 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.