Book Review

The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite

I never thought I’d say this, but The Hellion’s Waltz is just too darn nice. This historical f/f romance is beautifully written and full of kind, courageous, intelligent characters. It is also boring. I never would have thought that I’d get tired of reading a book in which people say kind and encouraging things to each other, but it turns out that yes, I really can have too little conflict in a story.

The book consists of two separate plots that are supposed to mesh seamlessly but instead feel awkwardly pitched together. Sophie’s family builds, plays, and tunes pianos. She was the victim of a swindler and has lost her self-confidence as a performer but gained a passionate hatred of swindlers. She catches Madeline, a weaver, in the act of pulling a con and confronts her. Madeline and Sophie become unlikely allies and almost instant lovers as Sophie struggles to regain her confidence and prepare for a concert, and Maddy attempts to gain justice for her fellow weavers by conning an evil boss.

This book consists of a lot of prep time as Maddie and her fellow weavers prepare to swindle their boss, Mr. Giles. Sophie gets over her dislike of con artists almost immediately because Mr. Giles is so one-dimensionally evil that it’s impossible not to side with anyone who has it in for him. With the “I hate swindlers and you are one” conflict out of the way within about five minutes, Sophie and Maddie proceed to enjoy having sex and falling in love while they pursue almost completely different plot lines (concert prep and swindle prep).

This is a lovely book for history nerds since it is full of details about the history of pianos, the history of weaving, and the labor movement. All these details contribute to the slow pace of the plot, and whether you enjoy them or not will depend entirely on whether you enjoy learning about the minutiae of yore. Did you read the chapters in Moby Dick about whale classification? Did you enjoy the chapters in Les Miserables about the history of the Paris sewer system?

If, like me, you love that stuff, then this book holds delights, although a swiftly moving plot is not one of them. This book consists of a lot of history, many pages of people having long, thoughtful conversations, and a great deal of meticulous preparation for the eventual con, which, once it is fully enacted, happens very quickly. Much is described but very little actually happens, and even the preparation for the con and the concert happens largely off page while the pep talks people deliver about both happen on page.

Sophie and Maddie have a lovely romance full of great sex and mutual respect and admiration. I appreciated the fact that both of these women are working class. There is not a duke or duchess in sight, and this makes for a refreshing change from the many aristocrats of historical romance (I love a good Earl as much as anybody, but variety is a lovely thing).

However, I was startled at how quickly the two fell into bed, expecting more caution from the reserved Sophie. It seemed out of character for her to act so quickly. That said, I was also gratified by how much everyone in the large collection of supporting characters views their relationship utterly without judgment.

Most of this book consists of characters giving pep talks to other characters. This is both delightful and…I can’t believe I’m saying this since I love pep talks…it’s boring. There is so little conflict that I would read a paragraph, say, “aww, that was nice” and wander off again. That’s actually a pretty good way to read the book: keep it around, and when you are feeling insecure, you can flip it open and read a random passage in which people are utterly lovely to each other.

I liked everything about this book except for the glacial pace. I could not keep my mind on it. It took me two weeks to finish a book that would normally last me two days. Perhaps readers who are forewarned will find the book less frustrating. I hope so, because truly people say the kindest things to each other in the course of the story. Read this for the representation and the affirmation, but not for the slow plot.

This book is available from:
  • Available at Amazon

  • Order this book from Barnes & Noble
  • Order this book from Kobo

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
We also may use affiliate links in our posts, as well. Thanks!

The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite

View Book Info Page

Add Your Comment →

  1. Lisa F says:

    I went just a slice higher than you on this one – a B+ – but I had a lot of the same issues you did with the book, Carrie. Mr. Giles is blatantly obvious a villain – there is literally no depth to him at all) and the Sophie/Maddie connection read as instalust to me. I liked the amount of detail in the historical detailing though.

    But this is definitely the weakest of the FP series – the first two made it on my best books of the year list and I wrote a squee-level review for the website about Ladies Guide. This book was a disappointment for me, but not a super huge one, but since the two previous books were incredible this is quite a come-down.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I haven’t read this one, but I have found that a lot of books these days seem to just be pleasant and two sweet and nice people get together with little or no conflict or drama and I’m bored as hell and take two weeks to slowly poke through it because I don’t really CARE. I need more interesting plots, people.

  3. The Other AJ says:

    I’m not sure I would quite call it “boring”, but I was surprised by how low-conflict it was for a book that centers around a con! I expected a little more tension over whether or not they would successfully pull it off and get away with it.

  4. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    I know not everyone enjoys the operatic-level of angsty heartache that is a main fixture of my romance reading, but without any appreciable conflict (not just bad-versus-good, but nuances and shades of disagreement) in a story, what’s left is, imho, an extremely bland product. And by making the villain so obvious and one-dimensional, the focus stays on the bad guy with no growth or development of the relationship between the MCs. Angst is like a spicy seasoning—used appropriately, it adds complexity to a basic dish.

  5. KatiM says:

    I actually had a similar issue with trying to finish the first book. I liked the characters. I liked reading about women in science. But I was bored about midway through and decided that Olivia Waite was just not for me.

  6. marjorie says:

    Great analysis. I think B- reviews may be the hardest ones to write; raves and pans are easy. Thanks for this. I so want this author to succeed, it’s melancholy when a book you’re rooting for isn’t everything it could be.

  7. Lynn says:

    I haven’t read this book yet but the low conflict is actually a selling point for me. I usually like some angst before the couple gets together but absolutely dread the “we’re breaking up because we can’t communicate” part of most (every?) romance(s). I know it’s supposed to make the HEA feel well deserved but it just makes me question the stability of some relationships. I might check this out when I have some time off from work, it sounds so cosy and the cover is *chef’s kiss*.

    A quick side question for the native speakers but how is “hellion” pronounced? Is it like “hell lion” or more like “helly-unn” (similar to champion)?

  8. HeatherT says:

    Hellion is pronounced the second way: “HELL-y-un” — with the middle syllable ellided/barely pronounced, so when said quickly it sounds like “hell-yun.”

  9. Cece says:

    I actually thought this was sharper, more focused, and readable than the other books in the “Feminine Pursuits” trilogy. But I also think it’s time to admit Waite’s books just don’t work for me — there isn’t enough conflict, there’s way too much pedagogue, and the romantic arc often feels underdeveloped or absent, which reduces the romance to a subplot. I keep picking these books up to see two women fall in love and negotiate relationship, and I keep having those expectations foiled because Waite’s real interest seems to lie elsewhere. Here, it was the art of classical composition, the 19th century British textile industry, the balance of artistic ambition & performance anxiety, and the importance of collective action & unions…which is fine! I’m happy to learn about those things! But I was primarily looking for a narrative of relationship development and personal growth, and didn’t find it.

Add Your Comment

Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

↑ Back to Top