A marriage offer obligated by duty; an acceptance, compelled by desperation.
At two and 20 and scarred from a fire, Philomena Pomfrett is resigned to spinsterhood, but to ease her dying brother's fretting, she reluctantly agrees to attend a London season - to acquire a husband. If she fails, when he dies, with no family and no money, her future is perilous. Betrayed once by love, Philomena entertains no notions of a love-match.
Newly titled, Bradford, Viscount Kingsley, returns to England after a three-year absence. When he stumbles upon Philomena hiding in a secluded arbor during a ball, he doesn't recognize his first love, believing she died in a fire. Yet, something about her enthralls him, and he steals a moonlit kiss. Caught in the act by Philomena's brother, Bradford is issued an ultimatum - a duel or marry Philomena.
Bradford offers marriage, but Philomena rejects his half-hearted proposal, convinced he'd grow to despise her. Then her brother collapses, and she's faced with marrying a man who deserted her once already.