Can a letter from the past change the future of two lonely young women?
Antonia Carstairs is reduced to being a companion to her cousin, reclusive Marianne Marchworthy. While cleaning out the late Lady Marchworthy's room Antonia discovers a letter proving Marianne's mother deliberately destroyed her romance with Robert Wickerham, now Duke Edenthorne. Impulsively Antonia writes the Duke, setting in motion an unexpected chain of events that forever changes not only her cousin's life but her own.
The table was set with a beautifully patterned fine china, as far removed from the coarse ware they had been using as cheese from chalk. There was even silver, heavy and still beautiful despite showing the effects of a hasty and inadequate polishing.
Gilly had barely served the soup - a thick broth more like stew than soup - when the air filled with a resounding thunder, startling them all and seeming to shake the heavy stone walls themselves.
“What on earth-?” Antonia gasped, then rose and dashed into the hall just in time to see Gilly pull the great door open.
A thick swirl of snow flooded into the hall, nearly obscuring the figure charging inside. Dark against the cloud of snow, his cloak flying around him almost like wings, he appeared as if he might be something supernatural and not quite of this world.
“Where is she?” he demanded, walking out of the snow and, having removed his hat and shaken himself free of the clinging white stuff, revealed himself to be just a man.
Quite a handsome man, too, perhaps - if she had not already seen Rotherham - the most handsome man Antonia had ever seen. Tall and slim, with dark hair barely touched with silver and eyes that resembled the color of a stormy sky, he had finely drawn features and a square chin.
“I asked,” he repeated in demanding tones, “where is Miss Marchworthy?”
Marianne and Rotherham had been only a step or two behind Antonia, but all stopped dead at the sight of their visitor. Rotherham could be heard muttering something which Antonia was most grateful she could not understand. Almost stumbling, Marianne took two steps forward then crumpled, as if her bones had suddenly turned to water. By quick action Rotherham kept her from smashing onto the stone flags, but he had scarcely arrested her fall before the stranger was there, sweeping her into his arms and holding her close.
“Take her into the parlor, there’s a sofa in there,” Antonia said, startled into action. “Gilly, go tell Duncan to take this man’s horse to the stables, then tell Cook there will be another guest for dinner, then bring hartshorn and some burnt feathers. Now!”