In late Victorian London, Louisa, the daughter of a viscount, falls in love with Ellie, the daughter of a new money family. Absolutely impermissible, they manage their trysts in plain view of their families, ever wary of being caught out.
Unfortunately, Louisa’s father is keen on Louisa being married as expediently as possible. Three years on the market is enough. He arranges to have another man ruin her in society, forcing a marriage—but it goes horribly wrong.
Two days later, when Ellie is finally allowed to visit Louisa, they escape the formalities of tea and rush to the galleries so they can speak freely — but they aren’t as cautious as they should be, and Louisa’s father catches them in a much-too-compromising position.
Ellie is horrified as Louisa’s father attacks her, threatens them both, and Louisa sends her away—but he isn’t done. Fully put out by Louisa’s refusal to marry and now finding his daughter in a sapphic clutch, he does the only thing he believes he can in the situation— he sends her to the Magdalene Asylum to spend the balance of her days in anonymity.
Little does he know she was being watched by her friend, Hugh Garrison Baron Endsleigh, who rescues her from the Asylum and takes her away. He places her with the love of his life, Amelia, as a ladies maid, on the coast far from London, her father, society, and Ellie.
Three years Louisa spends with Lady Amelia at Pembroke-By-The-Sea, until Amelia’s coming out brings them all back to London and a passionate reunion with Ellie. But she cannot abandon Amelia, who has episodes that are minimized with proper care, and only Louisa and Hugh understand that.
Ellie wants nothing more than to spend her life in a cottage, far from maddening society, with Louisa, but it seems it’s never to be.
But when the powerful duke who has a contract of marriage for the hand of Amelia also comes to London to claim his bride—and destroy Hugh’s heart in the process— Louisa gets ideas. She believes Amelia is in love with both men, and the only solution she can see is for her Ellie to marry the Baron, so they can all live happily ever after.
TW: sexual assault