And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake
This is the second in Elizabeth Boyle’s Rhymes with Love series, in which the titles are ‘riffs’ on well-known nursery-rhymes. As with the previous book in the series (Along Came a Duke) the heroine is a resident in the village of Kempton in which the unmarried ladies labor under a terrible curse – that they are doomed to spinsterhood.
Daphne Dale is the best friend of Tabitha Timmons, heroine of book one and soon-to-be Duchess of Preston. As the best friend of the bride, Daphne has been invited to attend the betrothal ball and a house-party which are taking place prior to the wedding, but there is a snag. The duke is the head of the Sheldon family – and the Sheldons and the Dales have been at each other’s throats for generations.
Preston’s uncle, Lord Henry Sheldon, is rather the black sheep of the family, but not for the usual reasons. The Sheldons have a reputation for licentiousness and scandal, but Henry is sensible and dependable with nary a scandal to his name.
Until, that is, he meets Daphne Dale.
The story starts out in such a way as to remind me of The Shop Around the Corner, which is one of my favorite films, so I was rather pleased when the book started out with two people corresponding incognito.
After a few months however, Mr DISHforth and Miss SPOONer decide they should meet. Both are halfway to being in love and anxiously anticipate their meeting, but of course complications ensure that ensure they are left unaware of the other’s true identity. Despite feeling an intense attraction to each other, once they discover that they are Sheldon and Dale, they commence hostilities immediately.
And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake is an entertaining, if frothy, read. The central couple is attractive and well-matched and the sexual tension between them fizzes from the outset. There is a good supporting cast featuring the fearsome (and somewhat barking!) Aunt Zillah Seldon and the aforementioned Preston and Tabitha; and I have to give special mention to Tabitha’s dog Mr. Muggins for his persistence in pursuit of sausages and… other things.
While the pacing of the story is generally good, I can’t help thinking that it was stretched out rather too much towards the end. Henry has realized who his Miss Spooner is, and, we realize in the next chapter, Daphne has discovered the identity of her Mr Dishforth. She is waiting for him to confess; he is confused by her continual references to Dishforth and how wonderful she thinks he is and there came a point I felt I just wanted to bang their heads together and tell them to “sort it!”
With so much time spent on the repeatedly foiled attempts of Dishforth and Spooner to unmask each other, the ending felt rather rushed and there was what I thought was a rather unnecessary epilogue set fifteen years later, complete with what seems now to be the obligatory brood of children
My biggest peeve with the book, however, was that Daphne is continually referring to and thinking of Henry as a rake – which we have been emphatically told that he is not. True, Daphne has turned his head so that he is less than his usual, sensible self when around her, but that’s still not enough to account him a rake. It does feel rather trite – almost as though the author had decided on a title for the book and then had to make the characters fit.
My second biggest was that we never discovered the oh-so-terrible reason for the feud between the Seldons and the Dales; or rather, there was a reference to it being about dogs, but that was it. On the one hand, I found that rather unsatisfactory, but on the other, I suppose it made an odd sort of sense and was in keeping with the overall light tone of the book that it would be due to such a stupid and insignificant reason.
But with those provisos, I did enjoy the book, and would certainly recommend it if you’re looking for a fun, angst-free and light-hearted read that doesn’t take itself too seriously.