REVIEW: Fortune Said: A Valentine Haberdashers Tale (Haberdashers Tales Book 2) by Sue London
When the earl’s valet falls desperately ill with a fever the household isn’t sure what to do, until one housemaid steps forward to care for him.
Sissy Devonport has known her share of grief. Her family was laid low by a fever that only she survived. Now a member of her new household appears to be suffering from the same illness and she is the only one sure she can care for him without falling ill herself.
Whit Whitman is a known flirt. A clever man who prefers to tease and gossip rather than do anything of substance. To his surprise, his illness has upset the household. And garnered the attention of one woman he thought he could never have.
Dear Ms. London,
After I devoured “A Common Christmas,” the first in the Haberdashers Tales novellas, I went straight back and bought the other two stories. “Fortune Said” is both the second story and set around Valentine’s Day so of course it was next up.
Whit Whitman had also grabbed my attention in the first story as he “helped” his cousin’s romance along. Now it’s a few months after Josh Dibbs and his Grace have found each other. Whit is a bit of a lady’s man, a charming rogue, yet his cousin Josh, as butler of the household, doesn’t let him get out of hand. Whit has noticed the shy, new housemaid but apart from smiling, mild flirting when Josh isn’t around and wishing her good day, he hasn’t paid her much attention. Whit knows he won’t marry though he does have moments of envy at the happiness Josh has found.
Sissy Devonport has settled into her new life in service and conscientiously does her job even as she’s curious about all the beautiful or odd things in the Earl’s study. She briefly wonders if the staff in her childhood home ever wondered about her. Sissy is minor gentry – though church mouse poor – and after her family all died, her cousins declined to take her in though one uncle did exert himself enough to get her this position. Honestly the families of the heroines in these stories should be horsewhipped. Anyway, Sissy is truly grateful to have a place even if she no longer has a family.
When handsome Whit mysteriously falls suddenly ill, Sissy realizes that she can help. She’s got a lot of experience with what she thinks is causing his sickness – the same one she contracted and recovered from but which then killed her family one by one then spread to their household staff. Since she recovered from it and survived nursing her family, Sissy volunteers to look after Whit: two weeks of sponging him, forcing him to swallow liquids then reading to him during the evenings as she remembers hearing her mother’s soothing voice.
Sissy knows Whit has turned the corner when he dazedly awakens, is stunned when his cousin sobs from relief that Whit is still alive and flirts with her since it’s Valentine’s Day after which he requests some brandy. An exhausted Whit questions Sissy about what happened to him which opens the floodgates of her grief for her family which leads to a compromising situation which his cousin discovers them in. In this household, it appears that even among the servants, young women can’t be compromised. Whit knows it’s useless to argue with his implacable cousin that nothing happened. Now if he can only get Sissy to agree to the inevitable.
Shy and blushing Sissy and charmer Whit would at first seem to have little in common but we soon learn otherwise. I liked that Whit has the desire to face the situation and do it properly. As he tells Sissy, “he only plans on doing this once so he’s going to do it correctly.” Stunned Sissy holds onto her senses enough to stop and think rather than jumping at his offer. She then startles him by beginning negotiations. What she asks him and what she tells him about herself takes him aback but darned if Sissy doesn’t keep after Whit until he finally answers. Then he charms her with a gift.
It was the most fabulous thing she had ever seen in her life. She felt moisture splash on her wrist.
“No, no. Don’t cry. Why are you crying?”
“It’s beautiful,” she croaked in a tight voice.
“Beautiful sounds good, why are we crying over good things?” He wiped the tears from her cheeks.
“Is that a yes, then?”
“Yes,” she squeaked.
Whit actually looked surprised. As though he believed that despite his charm, confidence, and determination she wouldn’t accept him. Some insecurity lurked behind his polished appearance,
Josh makes sure the banns are called immediately but in the interval, Sissy and Whit enjoy the quiet moments that they have to spend with each other and by the time that the Earl himself walks Sissy down the aisle – to get Mr. Whitman leg shackled before he knows what they’re about – Sissy has seen behind the façade that Whit has constructed. How can anyone not see the way he holds people he cares for close to his heart? His proposal gift showed her that from the start. He, meanwhile, is stunned to discover this lovely woman cares for him – a man who has never truly had anyone of his own before.
“Fortune Said” – and thanks for including the poem from which the title is derived – is a charming little Valentine’s Day – okay, so it’s only briefly mentioned – bonbon. I only wish that Bitsie had turned up again. B+