When Evan Mountjoy returns home from the Napoleonic Wars battered and bruised from an injury on the line, all he wants to do is recuperate. An injury years before has left his memory spotty, but he knows he will not be wanted at home. He has struggled to please his father for years and has disappointed the old man at every turn.
But he is surprised to find that his father has married in his absence, and his new stepmother takes an immediate dislike to him, leading him to think that his father has died. He soon finds out differently, but things have degenerated in his absence. His younger brother has taken to drink, and his stepmother's two sisters and brother have moved into the house.
Evan's servant and aide de camp, Bose, wants to know if they will be moving on soon. Bose is in love with Joan, another servant in the house, and would get married to her if they are to be staying. But if they will be moving on, she will not marry him because life is too uncertain. Evan agrees to stay, at least for a while, especially when he meets Judith, his new Stepsister. He is attracted to her immediately, but she only seems interested in pushing him away. But while her body says no, her eyes say yes, and he finds himself frustrated by the way his entire family warns him off his pursuit of her.
His father drops a bombshell on him by making Evan his heir... precisely because Evan disagrees with him. His father acknowledges that he needs a check on his ideas, especially when he is wrong. This causes tension with Evan's younger brother, who was hoping for Evan to die in the war so that he can inherit it all. His stepmother hoped he would die also. With so many people wishing he was dead, Evan has disappointed them all. But now his father needs him to build a canal, and to take advantage of Sylvia, a widow who has bought up the land needed to bring his father's canal to the river.
Sylvia, though, is no innocent, and has her own reasons for wanting the land she bought. She hopes to end up controlling the canal Evan's father, Lord Mountjoy, wants to build, and is not above manipulating every member of the family she can, Evan included, to achieve that end. Evan wants only to marry Judith and be happy, but someone has taken exception to his existence, and is trying to kill him. And they have even tried to make Thomas, Evan's new step-brother, a small child, do the deed.
Can Evan unravel the problem of who wishes him dead, convince Judith to marry him, and complete the mad idea for a canal envisioned by his father, for a purpose he will not reveal? Or will his family and sense of guilt finally do him in?
I didn't like this book at all. Reading it left a bad taste in my mouth. Everyone in the book, with the exception of Evan, Thomas and Bose, were lying to Evan, decieving him, or just trying to bend him to their will. Even Judith conspired to leave Evan out in the cold, and I found the book a chore to read, rather than delightful. Just the situation, with so many characters, including the heroine, lying to the hero and keeping information from him, was not my idea of a entertaining romance.
Absolutely none of the characters had my sympathy and I found all of them, except for the three mentioned above, to be distasteful. I had a bit of sympathy for Judith, but the rest of the family, as well as Sylvia just left me dead cold. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone, and I'd advise you to stay as far away from it as possible, unless you like reading about deceptive, disapproving people.