Ariel Summers, a peasant girl living in nineteenth century England, decides that she wishes to better her lot in life. She offers to become the mistress of the Earl of Greville in exchange for his providing her with the schooling to become a proper lady. Upon completion of her education, she plans to be his mistress.
Unbeknownst to Ariel, the old Earl dies prior to the completion of her schooling and the new Earl, Justin Ross, the newly legitimized son of the late Earl, inherits his father's soon to be mistress.
In the years since his father's death, Justin has relished the letters sent by Ariel, and something in those correspondances touches his hardened heart. When Justin meets Ariel, he wants her for his own. But she will not be any man's mistress, having decided that she want to try to repay Justin in some other way.
Justin deliberately hurts Ariel thinking that she has betrayed him with another. Tensions arise as she must learn to trust him again, and he learns the meaning of real love.
Kat Martin has written a well-pleasing historical that holds the reader's interest with the constant tension between the hero and heroine as they discover that their mutual attraction leads them on a journey filled with misunderstandings that ends when they find enduring love.