Natasha Phillips has been left alone too long. With most of her family deceased and her brother Peter fully committed in the war on the Peninsula, she’s been marooned in the country with an old aunt. Now that Napoleon has been defeated and Peter is facing deployment to the Americas, he must find a way for his sister to have her first Season. That’s where his friend Major Cameron Talbot comes in: he’s to keep an eye on Natasha, screen her suitors, and offer himself up as a chaperone. As a favor to his friend, Cam agrees–but with trepidation, because everything he hears about the outspoken, impulsive, educated Tasha clashes with his idea of the perfect woman.
Miss Claire Yelland is in a tight spot: almost alone in the world, she has few options for employment. Therefore, she turns to the theatre, reinventing herself as the dashing Clairisse Deschampes. She goes to great pains to hide her identity beneath a raven wig and guards her virtue to such an extent that she becomes known as the “Iceberg.” Then, her younger brother gets into a scrape that requires a large sum of money fast. Claire must make an uncomfortable bargain to save him: she agrees to marry the jaded Sir Egon Hollister. Egon wants to thumb his nose at his imperious, matchmaking grandmother by parading a scandalous bride at her house-party. Now, Claire must give the performance of a lifetime: loving newlywed in public, indifferent professional in private–while enduring Sir Egon’s assumption that she is a loose woman . . .
When a group of old friends liven up their card game by putting unusual stakes on the table–distasteful duties and worthless old things that they would like to get rid of–it’s all in good fun. That is, until their drunken guest, the young Vicomte Duvalier, offers up his old maiden aunt in exchange for a worthless Irish bog! Disgusted by the wager but constrained by honor to play his hand, the Earl of Rotherham plays to lose. But the woman who shows up on his doorstep is not the dowdy old spinster that he’d been led to expect.
Verity Clifford does not look her best when she emerges from the convict hold in the ship’s steerage after the end of the long sea voyage to Jamestown. Unjustly accused of theft, the ex-governess has saved her virtue by trading away almost every scrap of her clothing. When Gray Garnett–a wealthy American plantation owner who has just been jilted by his intended British bride–sees her body so brazenly exposed, he has no doubt about her profession before her deportation.