Six years after being severely wounded in the Peninsular Wars as a cavalry officer, and three years after leaving Penderris Hall in Cornwall, where he had stayed with his fellow Survivors during his long road to recovery, Ben finally admits to himself that he will never be able to walk properly again or resume his old way of life. But he feels adrift. Although he is a wealthy man and owns a profitable estate, his brother has been running it for him with great efficiency and Ben cannot summon the will to oust his brother and family. The trouble is, though, he does not know what else he is going to do with his life. He decides to spend some time with his married sister in the north of England while he makes some plans and decisions.
Samantha McKay is a recent widow. Her husband died after suffering for several years from battle wounds, and she is feeling drained and empty, for he would allow no one to nurse him but her and he was a demanding patient. It does not help that her sister-in-law has recently come to live with her and has very strict ideas on what is proper—and improper—for a widow to do. And the sister-in-law is fully backed by her autocratic father, who lives far away in the south of England but who nevertheless owns the house in which Samantha lives.
Ben and Samantha meet for the first time when he is out riding and jumps a hedge, narrowly missing coming down on top of her after she and her dog have left the confines of her own park, unknown to her sister-in-law. It is not an auspicious beginning to their relationship, though later they forge something of a friendship, cut short when Ben fears to embroil her in gossip and possible scandal. But her father-in-law judges her unfit to live without male supervision anyway and summons her south to live with him. Samantha chooses rather to escape to Wales, where she owns a dilapidated hovel of a cottage left her by her mother, though she has never seen it. Ben, the only one in whom she confides plans, insists upon escorting her there.
And so they escape together into a new world and a new life with new discoveries and challenges and possibilities—and new temptations.