Swindon, Wiltshire – September 1880
Flora Latimer has enjoyed a quiet summer attempting to keep the spritely and slightly eccentric Dowager Countess of Swindon healthy and entertained. But with the onset of autumn and the nearing of her twenty-first birthday, Flora’s prescience warns her that her father’s attempts to force her back to her childhood home will gather momentum. Her fears prove justified when Luke Beranger, the current earl, returns from a shooting party and receives a letter from Flora’s father, threatening to reveal a terrible scandal that will ruin his family’s standing if he doesn’t dispense with Flora’s services.
Matters become more complicated when Lady Mary, Luke’s sister, is attracted to Captain Redfern, an injured war hero. Mary is unaware of Latimer’s threat and the fact that it is only Redfern’s family who could have started the rumours. Luke and Flora are unable to think why Redfern would spread unfounded gossip, especially since the captain seems determined to win Mary’s affections.
Flora learns of a bequest left to her by her late grandmother and suspects that whatever it contains is at the heart of her father’s determination to keep her under his control. What she actually discovers shocks her rigid. Can she find the courage to confront her father once and for all? And will Lady Mary survive the attentions of a brutal, vengeful and unbalanced man…