[Review] The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, by Olivia Waite

Posted on | September 2, 2022

I loved Olivia Waite’s first book in her Feminine Pursuits series, The Lady’s Guide To Celestial Mechanics, so I was delighted to see that her second book, The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, was out, and I bought it immediately. And it sat in my to-read pile for months.

I wish I hadn’t waited, because it really is as fun, sexy, and lovely as the first book. Agatha is a publisher in mid-19th century London. Widowed for a few years now, she does well enough, but her almost-adult son is a trial and the political moods swirling about London make her nervous– even as she publishes story and does her own woodcuts of hanging, street riots, and speeches. Penelope is a beekeeper in the small community of Melliton a few miles outside of London who has become embroiled in a bit of an estate battle between a famous (woman, that’s relevant) poet and the Lady Viscount Summerville. The poet was the friend of Lady Viscount’s nearest relative, and some say the poet and Lady Abington were lovers. Penelope was Lady Abington’s beekeeper, and in her will she’s charged with keeping the hives healthy and alive.

Agatha has a large printing press in a warehouse on the edge of Melliton, and one day her senior printer sends her word that he can’t get to the archived stories she wants “because the room with those plates is full of bees.” Agatha goes out to the warehouse, hires Penelope, and from there on the lightning crackles delightfully. There’s a gorgeous epistolary chapter after Penelope rescues the bees but leaves them in an apiary within the property’s stone fence, as Penelope writes to tell her how the bees are doing, and Agatha writes back, and the details grow more and more intimate and the letters get longer and longer.

Most of the tensions in the book are external; a royal scandal rocks London, while Melliton is equally rocked by questions of stolen jewelry, vandalized beehives, and missing (and extremely salacious!) statues, all Lady Abington’s, and non the Viscountess’s to deal. Agatha is working to keep her son out of jail, Penelope is protecting the poet and trying to honor her late lover’s will, and things just keep forcing Penelope and Agatha to work together to solve those problems.

It’s lovingly plotted and charmingly written, and the next book is already on my e-reader.

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