Elinor's father forces her to marry old Baron Kingsley in exchange for money to pay off his debts. Kingsley wants to be envied for his wife among the elite of London Regency society. Elinor endures everything that Kingsley makes her do. He dresses her provocatively and takes her to social events, where Elinor's beauty causes a stir. Men start trying to seduce Elinor assuming that she must be interested because of her old husband.
Viscount Bellamy Townsend, a notorious rake, pursues Elinor. Kingsley's grandson, Charles is captivated by Elinor. But Kingley's neighbor, the Earl of Longford, is the one who captures Elinor's heart. She starts out as a friend to Longford, but is susceptible to a man so much younger and handsome than her husband and who treats her kindly. Elinor has felt undesired and uncared for all her life and despite her misgivings, she and Longford become lovers. Longford is cynical about women, but he soon starts falling in love with Elinor.
Elinor does not know that Kingley knows of her affair with Longford and has been wanting someone to seduce his wife. He is too old to have children, but hopes Elinor will become pregnant so he can claim the child as his. When Elinor become pregnant with Longford's child, Kingsley reveals this to Elinor. He then confines Elinor to his house and prevents her from seeing or communicating with Longford. The chances for Elinor and Longford to have a happy future together look impossible.
This report prepared by L. Watson