After a childhood sickness, Annie is labeled the town idiot, raped and once its determined she's with child, the brother of her rapist decided to make amends, not knowing that he would fall in love with her and learn her secret. Annie Trimble lives on the edge of society. Once a beautiful little girl, she is now a pariah after a childhood illness left her deaf. Unfortunately, her deafness goes undiagnosed since she can lip read and understand people. . . but only enough to convince others she's an idiot, not deaf. Left to her own devices, she wanders the woods around her home and one afternoon, she is accosted by four young men, one of which rapes her for sport because he believes she does not have the mental capacity to understand his actions.
The man's brother, Alex Montgomery finds out what happened and kicks Douglas off the property, disgusted with his actions. Alex meets with Annie's parents and they decided to drop the matter, so long as Annie does not become pregnant. When it becomes apparent that Annie is in fact carrying a child, Alex decides to marry her, since he is incapable of having children. The parents agree to the marriage, knowing Alex will adopt the child and divorce Annie so she can return home to be taken care of by her parents. Annie, of course, has no say and does not understand she is pregnant or getting married.
After a short and informal wedding, Alex takes Annie home to his ranch house and immediately turns her over to a nurse he had hired. Annie, believing her parents got rid of her because she was becoming fat, refuses to eat. The nurse abuses Annie forcing her to eat, and once Alex discovers how Annie is treated, he sends the nurse packing. His house keeper steps in and after spending some time with Annie, tries to convince Alex that the girl is simply deaf.
Alex refuses to believe Annie is anything other than the town idiot until he discovers her in his attic. Annie had created a sitting room and was serving manikins tea in a very sophisticated manner, even moving her lips as if she was speaking. Alex finally admits his wife is only deaf, not an idiot at all, and that his plan to take her child and then divorce her is cruel and unwarranted.
So he sets out to try to make his wife fall in love with him, the way he has fallen in love with her. He orders all kinds of instruments because he discovered she can hear some high-pitch noises. By this time, Annie knows she's going to have a baby, but doesn't realize she is actually married to Alex, since she attended her sisters wedding and knew it to be a big affair. When Alex slips up, calling her his wife, it causes some tension. The stress of their situation increases when Douglas makes a return visit home, and Alex tries to make Annie learn sign language so they can communicate better.
Annie eventually comes to trust Alex and love him. They have sex, because this is a romance. But even though Annie is now happy with her life, Alex feels like she's been handicapped too much, and sends her to a school for the deaf. She doesn't want to go and repeatedly writes to Alex asking to come home. He finally relents after she sends him a portrait. . . and his picture doesn't have any ears. He goes to Albany, where he sent Annie to school, and meets one of her teachers who pointedly tells him that Alex should go away to a school and perfect his Latin before he's allowed to return to his wife. Alex realizes that Annie belongs with him, and she's glad to go back home with him.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like this story because the romance is unique. Annie has a disability, and in a world of romance novels with two physically perfect protagonists, finding a story where the female protagonist was deaf is refreshing. Anderson also handles difficult topics (the rape) very well.
Best scene in story:
I enjoy the scene when Alex discovers Annie in the attic for the first time. She's completely different than the quiet insecure woman the readers, and Alex, know. In her special place, you see for the first time her potential to live just like every one else. Also, the guilt Alex feels is justly deserved, and he becomes more likeable because he owns up to how incredibly wrong he was about Annie.
Opinion about the main character:
I genuinely like Annie. I think her disability makes her a more attainable character, because no one is perfect. What I don't like about her is how naïve she seems sometimes. Anderson makes Annie almost a little too naïve for my taste, but it works out in the overall plot.