On an Irish hilltop, gazing out from the centuries-old stone mansion in which she’d been born, Lady Caroline Hawthorne looks past the brilliantly green lawns surrounding Kendall House. Beyond them all she can see are flower-bedecked and candle-lit ballrooms of London where she will glide among the dancers, as beautifully dressed as any. She will attend the glittering London theaters, to see and be seen; she will step out of a launch at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and drink champagne, eat strawberries and dance, laugh, and fall in love.
It is 1811, the wondrous year when Caroline will at last leave provincial Ireland and make her way to the elegance and excitement of London—the center of her dreams for years past. Indeed, Caroline sails across the Irish Sea to make her debut in all the splendor of the Season, and it seems all of her dreams are coming true. She falls in love with the Earl of Linnell, the heir to his father, the Duke of Apthorp, and he is enchanted by her. They marry that summer, and happily ever after begins.
But happily ever after is transformed into aching heartbreak, and Caroline stumbles from the heights of romance to the emptiness of despair. Forced into starting again by the unexpected cruelty of events spinning out of her control, Caroline must find the path back to an endurable pattern of life, trying not to hope, learning to deal with life as it is. And, should love come again, will she dare open her heart again to meet it?