The handsome Earl of Wenham has no intention of marrying any time soon. His sister Almeria points out to Hugo that he owes it to the title and the estates to marry and produce an heir. Failure to do so means the entire lot devolves upon his second cousin, the Honourable Felix Barstowe. She also reminds him that their father had promised an old friend, Lord Lavenham, that his son should marry Lord Lavenham's daughter, Miranda. Out of respect for his father's dying promise (which he had never taken seriously), the earl sets off for Lavenham House. He is stranded by snow a few miles away from his destination and takes refuge in a local inn. He meets up with a heavily veiled, mysterious young woman, who, by her confidences to him, he realises is the elusive Miranda. To his shocking surprise, the feisty Miranda declares she will not have anything to do with someone whom she declares, "is possibly so fat and gouty, that he needs to have a wife found for him." In fact, she would rather run away with a childhood friend. Intrigued, the earl makes it his business to get to know Miranda better by inviting her to stay in London with his sister. Unfortunately, this strategy annoys his dandyish cousin Felix Barstowe who is determined that the young and healthy earl should not marry and cheat him out of his birthright. Will Felix succeed in a dastardly plan to murder his cousin?
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