When the eligible Mr. Allison is to come to Fenton Manor to woo Honoria, there is a problem. She doesn't remember what he looked like. Crippled by her timidity, she hardly looked at him when they'd met during her first London season. But he had spoken to her father, determined to ask her for her hand. Her siblings, Serena and Benedict, find this highly amusing, but after Honoria overhears a conversation between her parents about their finances, she realises she must marry Mr. Allison, and this constraint leaves her martyred and unhappy and unable to share her feelings.
When Mr. Allison arrives, there is another problem. One to do with her sister, Serena.
Mr. Allison, (annoyingly handsome and kind) fails to propose as expected and leaves abruptly - but invites the confused family to stay at Bassington Hall, his own country home. His kindness to all her family leaves Honoria with no legitimate excuse to escape marriage. Mr. Scribster, his ugly, unpleasant, unfeeling friend, guesses more than she would like and offers Honoria a place to concentrate her dislike and frustration.
Meanwhile, Benedict embarks on an adventure with his rogue of an uncle, Wilbert, to save his childhood friend and neighbour, Genevieve Horton, who has become the unhappy Lady Sumner. By learning some scandalous skills, Benedict hopes to give some options to the most trapped figure in all of polite society - an unhappy wife.
When Benedict's life hangs in the balance, all the major players are changed forever and the tangle of romance is finally resolved.