This novel is inspired by the 18th Century Devonshire House Set.
Heroine Caroline, is one of the "natural" children of the Duke of Cley. Her mother is his mistress, Mrs Winterton. Caroline, as a child, is unaware of her true parentage.
She has been fostered with a country Vicar and his family. This is not a happy, contented family. The Vicar's son is sent down from Cambridge for debt. The public disgrace unhinges the Vicar's wife. The son is packed off to India. Caroline's foster family falls apart.
Caroline's scheming mother induces the Duke to offer her a home with his legitimate family. It is a cold, unwelcoming home with the exception of the Duchess of Cley, and the Duke's heir, Blakeney. Unfortunately for Mrs Winterton, the Duke is not charmed by the quiet, poem writing Caroline. The Cley menage is a mix of clandestine Lovers, acknowledeged and unacknowledged offspring and Whig political figures all dancing to the Duke's petty tune.
Due to a scandalous aborted elopement between the legitimate daughter, Charlotte, and the Duke's unacknowledged son, Gaston, Caroline is used as the Duke's scandal defusing scapegoat.
She marries poetaster, Tremadoc, in a bid for independence. In exchange for her silence regarding the elopement, the Duke offers Tremadoc a living as Vicar in Oldchurch.
But something evil is happening in Oldchurch. Caroline cannot trust her husband, servant or the villagers. Her only friend is an observant old fellow, John Gerard.
This is an entertaining Georgian/Regency romance. There is a mystery combined with a young woman's journey through an elite society that has no place for her.
The character's are three dimensional, no cardboard villians or steroidal heros. The heroine's actions flow logically from her values and experiences. The mystery features events that happened during the War with Napoleon. Really well done.