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Jolted out of her reverie at school, Clarissa realises everyone is looking at her. What could the old bat want? The headmistress hands her a life-changing letter. Invited to join her society mother in London, she has her first experience in dealing with men.
A trip to France to meet her penfriend sparks her interest in history. She learns about secret societies, the son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, black virgins, the Cathars, and the Templars. She falls out with her best friend, Anne-Marie, over the penfriend.
Settled in at Edinburgh University with her uncle Peter, Clarissa meets Malcolm, the man of her dreams, and has an immediate row with him. She also meets Anne-Marie again, who seems to shadow her footsteps. And she meets her cousin, Sandy, whom she first met and last saw as a boy.
Invited to a shoot, she meets Malcolm again and his sinister father, Alasdair. There is instant chemistry between the two young people, but again Malcolm misbehaves. Sandy takes her for a picnic, and shyly tries his luck.
A letter from her mother, Sarah, hints of a past fling with Alasdair. Her uncle confirms that Malcolm is her cousin. Her uncle’s gay lodger, Patrick, gives her ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ to read, but she doesn’t then understand its relevance for her family. Malcolm whisks her off after a lecture and into his arms. She falls in love.
She confronts her uncle who explains the relevance of the book. Sandy takes her to Roslyn to meet her grandfather, the head Mason, who suggests the two marry as has been planned for years. Her mother arrives for Christmas at Roslyn, her first in twenty years.
At a loose end for the Easter vac’, Clarissa organises a student trip to Italy. The group includes Sandy, and also Anne-Marie - sent by her father, Alasdair, to keep an eye on Clarissa. Stranded in Venice, Clarissa and Sandy spend the night together, but Anne-Marie shows up and interrupts things. In Rome, Clarissa is surprised to run into Malcolm, his father, and a mysterious priest. Back in Edinburgh, Patrick tells her of his experiences with an adaptable Malcolm.
Alasdair, a member of the Priory of Sion, organises a trip to Glasgow – ostensibly for some TV extra work. The mysterious priest again shows up. Alasdair then invites her and her mother to tea with his wife, Sarah’s aunt, to cement her relationship with his son. There is a thawing between the two sides of the family, and Sarah meets Malcolm.
During tea, Malcolm devours his intended with his eyes. At the first opportunity, he whisks her off upstairs to devour her fully. At the crucial moment she refuses, and he storms off violently. She wonders how to heal the breach.
Invited for Christmas at Roslyn, she learns that Malcolm is nearby, and wants to meet her at a strange location. She has enough sense to tell Peter of the plan, and he warns her against going there, but she can’t resist. Once there, she finds not only Malcolm, but also Alasdair and the mysterious priest. He proposes to marry the two lovers immediattely, but is shocked to find Malcolm has not even proposed.
Faced with all this, Clarissa puts her foot down and insists on returning to Roslyn to consult her mother. Sarah is inexplicably adamant that the match should not take place under any circumstances. Sent back to Edinburgh for her own safety, Clarissa manages to meet Malcolm anyway. They elope to Gretna Green, but a last minute conscience call to Sarah shatters the dream. It turns out that Malcolm is her half-brother. Initially very bitter and violent, he is brought round by a virago of a half-sister.
They return to Roslyn, and Malcolm meets Sarah again. The family gathers pass the stewardship of the Scottish Masons from the dying Grand Master on to Sandy. The Priory’s plans to have its own candidate, Malcolm, chosen. But Sandy refuses the honour. Malcolm, also a Sinclair, accepts instead and the crisis is resolved.