A spinster at 26, Claire Burton casts off her claustrophobic existence in her parents' conventional home and embraces a new life in the remote Welsh foothills, in the home of the man she once hoped to marry. There, she devotes herself to preserving the memory of her lover, a popular Victorian novelist, whose death made her a wealthy woman. But her inheritance chains her to the past and isolates her, since "society" assumes she had surrendered her virtue to the man. Why else would he leave her everything? Even her family casts her off.
Despite the stain on her reputation, two men soon pay court. Rhys Fitzgordon and Edward Latimer were boyhood friends of Claire's lost love; the three men were once inseparable. Now, they will draw her into a web of dark secrets that could cost Claire her life.
Claire is powerfully drawn to Fitzgordon, a man who seems to benefit too frequently from accidents. Several years before, his older brother died, giving him the title of Viscount Montfort and the impoverished Montfort estates. Then his wife fell to her death, thus providing him with the money he lacked. Now, he is determined to recover the land his brother sold to settle debts - the land bequeathed to Claire.
Handsome and confident, Edward Latimer holds the living of the Montfort estates. He leads a comfortable gentleman's life and wields considerable influence as rector. But he is haunted by his sister, Lucy, who disappeared two years earlier. Claire feels safe with him but gradually realizes he believes the secret to Lucy's whereabouts is hidden in Claire's house, perhaps in diaries and letters or an unpublished manuscript he is determined to find. She understands too late that he already knows what happened to Lucy and will do anything to bury the past.