The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite is a fantastic historical romance starring two women in their 40s.
Agatha is a single mother and widow. She owns and operates a printing shop following the death of her husband. The book is set in period where the monarchy is suppressing radical printers. While most of their work isn’t political in nature, Agatha tries to curb the radical political leanings of her adult son. On a routine visit to her country workshop, Agatha finds a section of the warehouse overrun with bees.
Enter Penelope, a local beekeeper. Penelope is the daughter of a wealthy merchant family, the last member of her family living in the family’s country estate. Everyone else is either dead, out at sea, or moved away.
I loved loved LOVED this book. I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics (which I enjoyed). I really liked that this book had more of a slow burn romance. It felt realistic for the characters and their lives. They had to consider the consequences of their actions on those around them more than the pairing in Lady’s Guide.
Agatha and Penelope get to know each other through letters, contributing to the slow burn nature of the romance. Writing letters breaks them out of their shells. They share more personal details than might be comfortable to do in person.
I appreciated that both women were older (43 and 45). They had more life experience and more responsibilities outside of themselves. I also really liked the fact that Waite didn’t bulldoze Agatha’s relationship with her late husband. There are a lot of stories out there that don’t even consider bisexuality, creating a strange dichotomy of straight or gay and invalidating past different-gender relationships.
As a bisexual, this is constantly infuriating to read. So I really appreciated that Waite enforced that Agatha is bisexual. She has experienced attraction to multiple genders throughout her life, and her past relationships weren’t just shams, even though she had an arranged marriage.
The historical context of this book was even more detailed than the last. The book almost feels more like a historical fiction novel with a romance than strictly a romance novel. The book is definitely romance forward, and you are going to get sex, but the setting and the plot really base themselves in a historical moment.
I would highly recommend The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows. It is a greatly enjoyable read with good character development, an appropriately slow burn romance, and an interesting plot outside of the romance. This would be a great book to start into romance with.