Set in 1780-81 in England (with prologue in Maryland) and with an awareness of the ongoing war between the Colonies and England, this is the story of Avenel Slane, an American with English roots, who has lost much due to the cruelty of the Earl of Laborde. Having won his estate of Osterley Park back in a card game, Avenel plans to return to England and have his revenge.
When her mother dies, Lady Brienne Morrow, daughter of Lord Laborde, finds herself without funds and so leaves her meager cottage in Wales to return to Osterley Park, the place she had once lived as a child, the estate owned by her father (the cruel earl). She arrives penniless to learn the magnificent estate has a new owner (Avenel) who decides to hold Brienne prisoner. Supposedly this is just until her father comes, but he is enthralled with the beautiful girl and tries to seduce her all the while. (It is clear she is somehow tied up in his revenge.) But the cruelty Brienne’s mother experienced taught her to fear both her father and rape, so she resists Avenel’s charms.
It’s a good story, and though perhaps not McKinney’s best (try The Ground She Walks Upon), it has sufficient twists and turns to keep you well entertained wondering just what Avenel’s plans are for the young woman he has taken captive, and whether (and when) Brienne will succumb. As a bodice ripper “light,” I certainly recommend it. For McKinney fans, it’s a must.