Miss Lily Leigh’s life is like a badly written fairytale. The fat younger sister is pretty, but her parents only have enough love and money for the beautiful older sister. When her parents die she’s denied an inheritance and enslaved to Rosamund, her heartless older sister, without a hope of being rescued. After more than a decade of pain and humiliation, the only thing that keeps her from throwing herself into the Thames is the possibility that one day she’ll catch another glimpse of Mr Penryth Bowen, the man her sister jilted eighteen years ago.
When her spoilt niece, Grace, wins the heart of William, Mr Bowen’s nephew and ward, Lily’s life momentarily brightens as the man who unknowingly owns her heart comes to call. Watching him from the shadows, she’s overwhelmed by the beautiful man’s kindness. But when Mr Bowen refuses to give his permission for an immediate wedding Lily knows her sister will blame her. A vicious beating is followed by the humiliation of being sent to beg Mr Bowen to allow the wedding in return for the chance of bedding Rosamund. Mr Bowen accepts the offer and Lily returns home wishing she was dead.
Mr Penryth Bowen is aware that Lily is in dire need of rescue, but his chivalrous impulses are hampered by an irrational desire for the woman. Her fleeting adoring glances cause a strange warmth in his chest while the thought of exploring her ample curves heat his blood to a pleasant simmer. He knows if he makes her a part of his life in some way he’ll be tempted to make her smile, tempted to give into his baser desires. He’s undecided until he discovers Lily has been battered black and blue. Penryth’s impulsive decision will change his life, but true kindness is a condition that requires self knowledge of one’s motives and an understanding that even well meant actions can have unforeseen consequences that are anything, but kind.