Raleigh Leary has a few issues: she knows herself to be a jilted fiancée, a failed fine artist and now, homeless heir to her father's foreclosed cottage and small country acreage in the Pacific Northwest.
Attempting to return to her working life after a decade of unpaid of care-giving; troubled from childhood by her mother's horrific end; one last bad-luck slap – her car's conk-out stranding her far short of her big city goal – overwhelms Raleigh's watershed year. No great fortune does she consider it then, when Gus Clast and his dog on their lunch break fish her out from her single-minded plunge into the Marillius River.
Gus, washing dishes at a backwoods roadhouse, would keep the recovered newbie "waitress/quick-sketch artist" thinking he's the fool he pretends, than let on he's actually a career mineralogist responsible for blowing the whistle on the illegal practices of a major mining conglomerate he's been working for as well as against. Playing both ends against the middle means he's also been doing a bit of sly local prospecting in his spare time, in quest of an obscure nineteenth-century gold mine called the Lost Jenny.
His research suggests this mine – indeed the whole scenic Marillius canyon – might hold generous, overlooked resources. It has already offered up a couple of "pickers" to his sampling. Trouble is, the corporation poised to exploit world-wide mineral rights on the strength of Gus' well-rewarded opinion would certainly destroy the land, the historic roadhouse, as well as Raleigh's former home and hope of founding an artisan's village and academy there.
The gritless runaway Gus rescued turns out to be a resilient, woods-savvy, free-spirited woman. Does she know the mine's whereabouts, even as he does? He's so insecure, he's got a contract ready for such a contingency as soon as he finds a private moment to suggest a working partnership. Setback: her refusal to sign forces him to reassess tactics. In less than due course he proposes marriage – and gets a bewildering surprise in how she accepts.
Raleigh holds a secret of her own, mesmerizing to any fortune hunter – she's in possession of a rare wine-red natural diamond crystal. If only she can find a mineralogist without an agenda to test it, validate it, and not double-cross her, the rock would fetch a mogul's mad money.
Raleigh soon discovers, however, the murky pact Gus has with his onetime employer. Worse yet, she susses out his work alliance with her treacherous former fiancé, whose past schemes endangered her fragile parent, and threatened Raleigh as well. He's persistently in and out of the picture and industriously stalking the pair of lovers.
Raleigh's struggle to rely on Gus is crucial: how can she trust her life, love and treasure to a guy so secretive? How often (and how far) will she be conned, and will Gus' unorthodox courtship methods support a happy outcome for them both? One Diamond Shy by Marcie Murray mines the diatremes of one woman's heart for "gold in the box".