The ties between siblings can be very intense. They may squabble between themselves, but band together in an impenetrable bond when attacked by outsiders.
Deborah and Richard Wexford are one such pair. Lady Sabrina Sinclair and her brother, Rowan, the Duke of Gretton are another. Deborah married the dashing Jonathan Marchant, who unfortunately went down with his ship the Thetis during a sudden storm at sea, leaving her a childless widow after only three years of a loving marriage. She retreats to the solitude of his home at St. Mary Magna, content to live quietly, secure in the love and companionship of her brother.
But then, a hasty note from Richard, disturbs her seclusion. He is on the run, after having been framed by two people in Bath, where he had been spending time visiting friends. Lady Ann Appleby and Sir James Uppingham, who are supposedly unaquainted with each other, have accused Richard of stealing her diamond necklace, after first forming a liaison with her. This leaves the pathway to Lady Sabrina clear for Sir James, who wishes to marry the wealthy young woman, sealing the bargain made by their fathers some years previously.
But, along with the letter, Richard has enclosed a watch that had been a gift to him from Lady Sabrina, who professed to love him. With no further information at hand, Deborah departs for Bath immediately, to try and discover the truth behind all these riddles. Before she quite makes it to her destination, her coach and coachman have a slight run-in with the Duke, who is high-handed and arrogant as such gentlemen frequently are.
The two of them continue to have unfortunate meetings, until finally, Deborah helps to rescue Sabrina, who faints while out walking her dog. Discovering that Deborah is not quite the vixen he'd thought her to be, the Duke calms down and begins to realize that she is perhaps worth getting to know, after all.
Amid all the whispers, conniving and secrets, there is blackmail and danger for all involved. Slowly, Deborah begins to piece together the tale that somehow involves all of them, and with the Duke's assistance, strives to make sense of it all.
The descriptions of clothing and households are lavish, and you'll think you're right there on the scene. You'll certainly feel the brisk and chilly breezes. Characters are well-formed, and the plot is superb! Here's a wee bit of advice. Don't skip over the last few pages, because just when you think all's well that ends well, the talented Ms. Machin has another trick up her sleeve. You'll have to read it to find out what that is, because I'll not give away the surprise!