I’ve been avidly following this series of novels (all with nursery rhyme-inspired titles) about the ladies of Kempton – cursed to spinsterhood unless they want a terrible fate to befall their beloved – and about the centuries-old feud between the Seldons and the Dales – aristocratic families whose estates adjoin each other and who over the years have built up family legends about the terrible vices of the other lot. This shorter story fills in some of the gaps about the feud and about the former Lady Henrietta Seldon’s infamous habit of marrying and being widowed in rapid succession (three times by the beginning of the series). It also gives us another Seldon-Dale romance after Henrietta’s brother, Henry, ran off with one of the Dales in the previous full-length novel.
The beauty of this novella is that it concentrates on one couple (with not much in the way of random appearances by couples from previous books) and revolves around only one out of the series’ two ongoing subplots. So I feel it could stand well on its own for those unfamiliar with the series. The story opens with Henrietta preparing for a trip to London, having been left with the charge of shutting up her nephew’s house, as well as the care of her niece-by-marriage’s rather unruly terrier (one of the recurring stars of the series). Enter the hero: Crispin, Viscount Dale, carrying a basket of puppies. These are the result of yet another Seldon-Dale mismatch, between said unruly terrier and one of Crispin’s prized hunting bitches (the original feud is rumoured to have begun in a very similar way back in Elizabethan times).
Whatever the cause of the feud, and no matter how angry Crispin is at that moment with the Seldon family in general, there’s no denying that he and Henrietta have a lot of history. Thwarted in their plans to run away together in their youth and since (once for each of Henrietta’s impulsive marriages), they are forced to relive their history when a puppy escapes and they find themselves locked in a cellar as they search for him.
More than half of the story is told in flashbacks, which I know isn’t a style to everyone’s taste, but I like it, and I love the comedy each time the pair try to overcome their mutual attraction, fail, and then encounter unexpected obstacles – often placed in their way by interfering family members. Of course, it all works out in the end, but the fun is in the journey – and in finding out how each of Henrietta’s marriages ended so disastrously, though never through any fault of hers: whatever the gossips might say.
A fun little read, which satisfied my need for more Seldons and Dales – at least until the next full-length novel comes out at the end of the year.
The Seldons and Dales have been mortal enemies for centuries …
But that hasn’t stopped the roguish Crispin, Viscount Dale, and the impetuous Lady Henrietta Seldon from waging their own battle … of the heart. Every stray glance, every chance encounter threatens to reveal the secret passion that keeps drawing them together.
But finally, after years of flirting with disaster …
Crispin and Henrietta find themselves locked in a wine cellar, and now there is no denying the love and loyalties that have lured them in and torn them apart time and time again. Will this one last chance—this tempting night of desire—ignite a fire that will never be extinguished, no matter the price?
Read an excerpt.