Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night
I love older heroines and second-chance-at-love stories – and I adore Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson, to which this story’s title alludes; and so I was delighted to be assigned Kate Noble’s novella Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night. Although it did not quite live up to my expectations, it’s an entertaining read and well worth picking up.
Cecilia Goodhue lives the sad life of a dependent spinster. Ten years earlier, she attempted to elope with Theo Hudson, but they were caught by her father (a lawyer) and his uncle (her father’s noble client). Theo left with his uncle, and because Cecilia’s reputation was ruined, she was sent to live with her sister and her vicar husband. There she has been embracing respectability, teaches at the village school and is good friends with all the ladies in the village. But then a letter arrives that changes everything: Cecilia’s cousin Eleanor has also eloped, in this case to London with a soldier. Her uncle is an invalid and cannot travel to London, and because she wants to save her family from further ignominy, Cecilia decides to go to London herself, find her cousin and restore her to her family.
She is given a letter of introduction to the Earl of Ashby (The Game and the Governess), and when she arrives at his London house, the first person she encounters is Theo Hudson, who is the earl’s lawyer. The earl requests Theo help her with her quest, and because the earl is a very important client, Theo has no choice but to agree.
There are bad feelings on both sides at this point, but Cecilia and Theo can’t help wondering what has happened to the other during the last ten years, and, more importantly, what really went wrong back then. As they try together to find Cecilia’s cousin, they discover intriguing sides to the other, and slowly the old attraction is rekindled.
All this is handled very well. I particularly liked the way that Cecilia is brought to reflect on the persona she has taken on, and why she did so. When she spreads her wings, she does so delightfully.
Theo is a charming hero – a bit stiff at first, but he opens up soon, and I loved his inner monologues. The minor characters are very funny, and some scenes are hilarious.
Both protagonists are members of the middle-class, even if they count aristocrats among their acquaintance and relations. This is explored to some extent, but rather unfortunately, it is dropped in the last third of the story. Cecilia and Theo move outside their normal spheres, but the fact that the restrictions of middle-class society will continue to apply to them in the future is handily ignored. This becomes glaring in a final romantic gesture, which will have tremendous impact on Cecilia and Theo’s reputation and his future, but this is never touched upon.
All in all Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night is a charming read which does not quite live up to its promise towards the end. Several characters from the full-length novels in this series have cameo appearances, and I am looking forward to reading more about them in other books by Kate Noble.