Cecilia Goodhue is a schoolteacher with a past, living with her sister and her husband in a tiny English village. Resigned to a quiet life, Cecilia is surprised when she finds out that her young cousin has run off with a man of no means.
Cecilia had once been a teenaged girl who also fell for a young man’s charms—only to be devastated by his betrayal. Determined to not let her cousin meet the same fate, she heads off to London to but is shocked when her investigation leads her right to the front door of the very man who broke her heart: Theo Hudson.
Together, they reluctantly embark on finding her cousin and returning her to her family. During their searching in London, it soon becomes clear that they both remember their short-lived romance differently and perhaps now, years later, they have a fresh chance at love.
This novella is loosely connected to the author’s current Winner Takes All series by virtue of the fact the principal characters from the previous two novels make cameo appearances, but it can be read as a standalone.
Miss Cecilia Goodhue is a spinster schoolteacher of twenty-six years of age, who lives in the village of Helmsley (the home town of John Turner) with her sister, who is married to the local vicar. Cecilia hails originally from Manchester, but following her – aborted – elopement with Mr Theo Hudson a decade earlier, had to move away because of the gossip and because she didn’t want the scandal to forever dog the rest of her family. Living on her sister’s charity in Leicestershire, Cecilia has given up all hope of marriage and children; she has enough money to be able to live on her own, but that is not the done thing, so she is stuck living with her sister and putting up with the vicar’s constant needling about how lucky she is that they were prepared to take her in considering that she is a ruined woman.
Cecilia reflects with some asperity that she is not exactly ruined; her father and Theo’s uncle discovered them before they got to the good part 😉
When a letter from Cecilia’s seventeen-year-old cousin Eleanor arrives, announcing that she is running off with a soldier to get married, Cecilia immediately takes it upon herself to go to London after her. It’s clear that she is reminded of her own actions at that age and of the effect it has had on her life and wants to prevent the same thing happening to her cousin.
Mrs. John Turner arranges her to meet the Earl of Ashby in London, and tells Cecilia that he will be able to help her. But upon her arrival at the Earl’s house, she is greeted by none other than Theo Hudson, whom she has not seen for ten years. Theo is a lawyer in the firm used by the Earl, and he has been called there specifically to help with the search for Cecilia’s cousin.
She is surprised at the animosity she can feel coming from Theo, and thinks it’s a bit much seeing as he abandoned her. But needs must, and she can’t afford to waste any time in her search. For his part, Theo is surprised to see the girl he had loved, and annoyed at himself for finding her attractive, considering that she abandoned him.
This is a very quick read, and while the tone is light-hearted overall, Ms. Noble makes some good points about how one ill-judged action and the ensuing gossip could have such a detrimental effect on a young woman’s life, while a man could just get on with his life as if nothing had happened. Theo and Cecilia naturally realise they never fell out of love with each other, and Theo admits that he so readily believed what his uncle told him in order to get him away from her because of his own lack of trust and self-esteem. But all this happens in the course of a single day, and I found the idea of a couple who hadn’t seen each other for ten years falling back into each other’s arms so quickly and easily to be rather unbelievable. Both of them admit that they were different people a decade ago and that perhaps they didn’t know each other all that well, so they can hardly have rectified that lack of knowledge in less than twenty-four hours.
Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night is short and sweet, but ultimately a bit insubstantial.