Skip to Main Content

To Swoon and to Spar

A Novel

Book #4 of The Regency Vows


See More Retailers

About The Book

Bridgerton fans will like this one.” —Julia Quinn, #1 New York Times bestselling author

The Regency Vows series that is “sure to delight Bridgerton fans” (USA TODAY) returns with this story about a viscount and his irascible new wife who hopes to chase her husband from their shared home so that she can finally get some peace and quiet—only to find that his company is not as onerous as she thought.

Viscount Penvale has been working for years to buy back his ancestral home, Trethwick Abbey, from his estranged uncle. And so he’s thrilled when his uncle announces that he is ready to sell but with one major caveat—Penvale must marry his uncle’s ward, Jane Spencer.

When the two meet in London, neither is terribly impressed. Penvale finds Jane headstrong and sharp-tongued. Jane finds him cold and aloof. Nevertheless, they agree to a marriage in name only and return to the estate. There, Jane enlists her housekeeper for a scheme: to stage a haunting so that Penvale will return to London, leaving her to do as she pleases at Trethwick Abbey. But Penvale is not as easily scared as his uncle and as their time together increases, Jane realizes that she might not mind her husband’s company all that much.

With her trademark “arch sense of humor and a marvelously witty voice” (Entertainment Weekly), Martha Waters crafts another delightful romp for all historical romance fans.


Prologue Prologue
Trethwick Abbey, Cornwall, April 1818

It was a dark and stormy night—or, rather, it should have been.

In reality, it was a sunny, breezy afternoon—one of those mild April days that truly felt as though summer were properly on its way. It had been a wet, cold winter, and Penvale had more than once wondered why, precisely, he’d thought it wise to leave London to return to Cornwall in January, of all months.

Today, however, he could not help thinking that the atmosphere would be well served by some of the bleak, stormy weather for which his ancestral home was so famed. Because he—Peter Bourne, seventh Viscount Penvale, owner of one of the oldest stately homes in all of England—was ghost-hunting.

Penvale didn’t really believe in ghosts, of course. He was a practical man, not given to flights of fancy. There was simply no chance that a house—and certainly not his house—could be haunted.

And yet here he was.

“Did you hear that?” his wife asked.

Penvale turned slowly, surveying their surroundings. “I did,” he said, squinting into the gloom. It might have been a sunny afternoon, but they were in one of the unused bedrooms on the third floor, the curtains drawn to prevent any light from entering, the furniture still covered to ward off dust, and this all lent an eerie, lonely mood to their activities.

The household staff was in the process of airing out these rooms in preparation for a house party they would be hosting in a couple of weeks’ time. Penvale’s sister and brother-in-law and closest friends would be staying with them for a fortnight, taking in the sea air, enjoying long walks along the scenic cliffs atop which Trethwick Abbey was perched, and generally savoring all the comforts the estate had to offer.

Penvale thought a haunting might cast a bit of a pallor on the proceedings.

“I think it came from the wardrobe,” his wife continued uncertainly, her large blue-violet eyes mirroring some of his own unease.

A moment of silence.

“The wardrobe,” Penvale repeated, casting a wary glance at the piece of furniture in question, a hulking presence in one corner. “Well, I suppose I should check inside.”

“Yes,” his wife agreed.

Neither one moved.

“Penvale?” she prompted.

“Yes, of course,” he said, taking a few steps toward the wardrobe; no sooner had he made it halfway across the room, however, than there was another ominous thump, this one coming from the opposite wall.

Penvale paused. “That,” he pronounced with great certainty, “did not come from the wardrobe.” He turned back to his wife, noticing that she’d gone paler.

“No?” she ventured, her voice more hesitant than he’d ever heard it.

“No,” he said more firmly, advancing on her slowly. Her eyes were fixed on his face as he approached, close enough that he could detect the fresh citrus scent that always clung to her skin.

Then, without warning, the silence between them was shattered by an earsplitting, unearthly scream.

And the candle in his wife’s hand flickered out.

About The Author

Photograph by Ryan Chamberlain

Martha Waters is the author of Christmas Is All Around, and the Regency Vows series, which includes To Have and to HoaxTo Love and to LoatheTo Marry and to MeddleTo Swoon and to Spar, and To Woo and to Wed. She was born and raised in sunny South Florida and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives in London, and loves sundresses, gin cocktails, and traveling.

Why We Love It

“Martha Waters writes some of my favorite novels, and her Regency Vows series is the very definition of a historical rom-com: witty, warm, and swoony. But what makes Martha’s books so singular is their sense of fun—a screwball sensibility that elevates what could be a staid romance into something much more entertaining. And this book goes a step further, incorporating a fake haunting to perfect comedic effect here. Martha is known for turning tropes on their head, and she does it again here. To Swoon and to Spar is the perfect addition to fans of her previous books and series like Bridgerton.”

—Kaitlin O., Editor, on To Swoon and to Spar

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (April 11, 2023)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668007907

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

"Sweet and swoon-worthy"
Woman's World

“I simply could not put [it] down . . . . Bridgerton fans will like this one.” Julia Quinn, author of the Bridgerton series

"The Regency Vows series has given us some unforgettable romantic endeavors, and To Swoon and to Spar provides both laughter and endearment."
—B&N Reads

“With a refreshingly acerbic sense of wit Jane Austen might have admired as well as a plot that gives a clever nod to the screwball spooky delights of Austen’s Gothic-tinged Northanger Abbey and the novels of Mrs. Radcliffe, Waters (To Marry and to Meddle, 2022) proves she is in fine literary fettle as she dexterously delivers another sublimely satisfying addition to her completely charming Regency Vows series.” Booklist

“Satisfying, slow-burning... the goofy faux ghosts and Jane’s hilariously blunt personality set this apart. Series fans won’t be disappointed.” —Publishers Weekly

“A romantic comedy through and through… [Readers will] be pleased that Jane ultimately decides to make room for Penvale in both Trethwick Abbey and her heart.”
Library Journal

"I loved this book more than I can say. It was instantly endearing, hilariously witty, and an absolute joy to read. Jane was the most wonderful heroine, and Penvale was a hero truly deserving of her. The delightful narration had me constantly smiling when I wasn't outright laughing, and the slow burn, marriage-of-convenience romance melted my heart. To Swoon and to Spar will be joining Waters' other books on my favorites shelf, just as soon as I've finished rereading it!"— India Holton, bestselling author of The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Martha Waters

More books in this series: The Regency Vows