Love in a Cold Climate is more of a companion novel to Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love than a sequel, because it focuses on a different group of characters. Fanny is still the narrator, and she returns to tell a little more of her own story but mostly that of her beautiful friend and distant relation Polly Hampton.
When Fanny receives an invitation to stay with the family upon their return from India, she is happy to renew her friendship with Polly. Polly’s demanding mother, Lady Montdore, has been pushing her toward marriage, but Polly resists. Polly has always been difficult to read, unlike Fanny’s Radlett cousins from The Pursuit of Love, who “told everything.” Although Polly is so beautiful that she could have her pick of the eligible bachelors, she tells Fanny that she finds the whole life of the social season boring.
Lady Montdore is a rapacious, snobbish manipulator with social ambitions, although not without charm. Another family member who is important to the novel is also a snob, “Boy” Dougdale, the husband of Polly’s aunt, Lady Patricia. Fanny and her cousins have always called Boy “the Lecherous Lecturer” because of his tendency to furtively grope very young girls. Much to everyone’s surprise, Polly’s secret comes out when, shortly after Lady Patricia’s death, she marries a reluctant Boy, for she has been in love with him for years.
Polly is ostracized from her family and cut out of her father’s will as a result. But the plot thickens upon the arrival of Lord Montdore’s heir, the effeminate and hilarious Cedric Hampton.
As usual with Mitford, we have a strong suspicion that all her ghastly and funny characters strongly resemble real-life society members of her time. Her novels are full of vivid characterizations and incisive dialogue. Even in today’s world, so removed from her own, her novels are extremely funny.
As a side comment about the cover art, I find the covers of the most recent editions of Mitford’s novels to be too romantic and to do nothing to convey the spirit of her novels. I was able to find a better cover for The Pursuit of Love, but this was all I could find for Love in a Cold Climate.