Lord Henry Seldon is horrified to discover that his rascal of a nephew, the Duke of Preston, has placed an ad in the paper on his behalf looking for a bride. Henry is one of the notorious Seldons but unlike the rest of his family, he doesn't have a scandalous nature or history. He's positively charming, kind, proper and sensible. And he has no intention of writing back to any of the multitudes of women who have responded to the slightly dry ad. But he reads one of the replies and can't help himself, writing back to this intriguing woman under the pseudonym of Mr. Dishforth. Soon he has a deep and serious correspondence going with "Miss Spooner" and he is eager to meet her.
Daphne Dale is Miss Spooner. And her honest and heartfelt correspondence with Mr. Dishforth makes her certain that he is her soul mate. So it is with great excitement that she discovers that her friend's betrothal means that she will have a chance to go to London and meet her mysterious letter writer. Unfortunately her friend's betrothal also means that she'll have to spend time in the company of the loathed Seldon family. It seems that the Seldons and the Dales have hated each other since time immemorial and it is only the promise that she can finally reveal herself to Mr. Dishforth and he to her that has her willing to attend first the engagement ball and then the wedding of her dear friend Tabitha to the Duke of Seldon. Daphne meets and has an immediate attraction to a stranger at the ball so she's horrified to discover that this man is Lord Henry Seldon, a member of the hated Seldon clan. And yet Daphne and Lord Henry are too drawn to each other, enjoying their sparring and banter and even some steamy stolen kisses to stay completely away from each other as they try to discover the identity of their respective correspondents.
The plot hinges on a sweet idea and the snippets of earnest passages from their letters is well done. The addition of the long-time feud between their families (over a startlingly hilarious occurrence that isn't revealed until almost the end) keeps the hero and heroine nicely separate as long as possible but doesn't fall into the "easily cleared up misunderstanding" plot contrivance that is so common. Daphne and Henry are both likable characters, the tale is enjoyable and it is entertaining to watch each of them try to work out the mystery of each other's identity. Best yet, there is a surprising, if slightly unbelievable, development on the way to the happily ever after here. Boyle writes solidly appealing historical romances and she has done it with this one as well.