Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield and later British Prime Minister, based his eighth novel, "Henrietta Temple", on his secret affair with the married woman, lady Henrietta Sykes, with whom he broke the relationship in 1836, when he found out that she had taken another lover. This semi-autobiographical silver-fork novel with an engaging plot and witty dialogue, is a good account of Disraeli’s early passionate relationship and his ambivalence towards women. Disraeli abandons the political theme in the novel and concentrates almost entirely on love story. In addition to the interest of the autobiographical element, the novel also poses some questions about the identity of the main male character. First published in 1836, "Henrietta Temple" was the author's first true success.
The Armine family, in particular the young Ferdinand Armine, is in great financial difficulties. Ferdinand's grandfather has burdened the family estate with large debts, which his father did not manage to diminish. Ferdinand himself is not disposed to live with his small income alone, and during his time in Malta with his regiment, he incurs debts of his own. The only thing that can easily pay for his debts and restore the house of Armine now is for Ferdinand to marry well, and the chosen wife for him is his cousin Katherine, the heiress to their grandfather's wealth. Katharine, who has idolised her cousin like their grandfather did, immediately consents to the marriage. But for Ferdinand, the match is a matter of necessity, not of love. Just as Ferdinand is beginning to realise that this planned marriage will be a loveless one for him, a chance meeting with the beautiful Henrietta Temple changes everything. "There is no love but love at first sight", and this young lady proceeds to turn Ferdinand's world upside down.