Octavia Darcy's friends and relatives keep telling her that a single woman is always in want of a husband, especially an impoverished widow whose late husband's estate has all gone to a pinchpenny male relative. But to Octavia, an orphan whose half siblings have always bullied her and whose husband was kind, but not the love of her life, the idea of giving herself up to the control of another is anathema. When she unexpectedly inherits a fortune, she is overjoyed and looks forward to a new life of independence. Escaping from the efforts of her half brothers and sisters to marry her off, Octavia goes to Yorkshire to find out more about the family she never knew, and while she is there she meets and crosses swords with landowner and politician Sholto Rutherford. And her encounters with him, unbeknownst to her, are destined to continue.
After her time in Yorkshire, Octavia returns to London and shares a house with the dashing Lady Susan. Although she is now secure in her new life as a wealthy heiress, Octavia is quickly caught up in the romantic problems of her young niece and the confusing, but pleasant, meetings with Lord Rutherford. But when the shadow of her loathsome relative, and her late husband's heir, George Warren, falls over her, she is threatened with the loss of both inheritance and reputation. Octavia seeks relief from Warren's intrigue by spending Christmas as a guest of the Rutherfords at Netherfield House (the same house that Bingle