Harold Manners-Sutton was abducted and tossed onto an outbound naval ship headed to fight the Americans in 1812.
Now, four years later, Harry, brother of Amelia, Duchess of Caversham, has returned to England so he can finish his medical education so he could be a proper doctor. He’s had enough of war, and with his last surviving friend, Reggie, now settled in a safe officer’s position supervising construction for the Royal Navy at Ireland Island, Harry is ready to go home. But he has one last thing to do before he can move on with his life—take the treasured belongings of a dead friend to the man’s two sisters, and make sure they are safe and happy. It was the final request that Wally asked of him and Reggie.
Phoebe Grenard has just learned that her cruel father sold her and her sister to a money-monger in order to pay his gambling debt when Harry and his friend walk into the dress shop that she and her cousin operate in a village near Newcastle. She plans to go to London to meet with this moneylender, a Mr. Donovan, to see the contract her father supposedly signed before he died, and offer Donovan terms if that contract was valid. Her brother’s friend, Harry, insists on taking her to London himself to see Donovan, saying he needed to protect her. Phoebe didn’t want to be in such close proximity to Harry because she found herself growing more and more attracted to him each day. Kissing him was a mistake, but one she couldn’t stop herself from doing. In his arms, she felt safe and warm.
In London, she learns of Harry’s connections to the most noble families in England, and it crushes her because she was not in his class. But it’s his aunt’s reaction to Phoebe’s dubious bloodlines that reinforce in Phoebe that there could never be a future for them—after all, her father was the bastard child of a passing Roma gypsy and raised in a Presbyterian orphanage.
Harry admires Phoebe’s sense of honor, pride, and love for her only remaining family—a sister and a cousin. He also desires her unlike any woman he’s known before, and he wants to make her his wife. Phoebe fights the growing attraction to Harry because she will never be any man’s mistress, no matter that she’s falling in love with him a little more every day.
Donovan needs young women to work in his brothels, and he holds a contract that says Jack Grenard’s two daughters—Phoebe and her twelve-year-old sister Lydia—are to work off that debt in the event that Grenard cannot repay. But the moneylender doesn’t count on Phoebe and Lydia’s determination to remain free, nor Harry’s resolve to live up to his deceased friend’s last wishes to keep his sisters safe. And as to Wally’s desire that his friends see Phoebe and Lydia happily situated, Harry believes that keeping Phoebe happily situated means one thing—marriage to him.