Lucien Savarol wanted his daughter Diana to marry well and to leave the West Indies. To that end he sends her to a distant cousin Lucia, Lady Cranston, for a season in London. Diana was born and raised in the West Indies on her father's sugar plantation and finds London wet and cold and hates it.
Lyonel Ashton, Earl of Saint Leven, has recently found his fiance,, Charlotte, in an extremely compromising position with a lover. He broke th engagement, challenged the lover to a duel, put a bullet through his arm and swore off women. Charlotte and her lover married to save her reputation. Lyonel goes to London to his Aunt Lucia's townhouse.
Lyonel and Diana meet for the first time at Aunt Lucia's townhouse and Lucia convinces Lyonel to introduce Diana into society by escorting Diana and herself to several balls. As Diana does not know how to dance, Lyonel teaches her. Neither Lyonel or Diana are interested in marrying and for that reason the sparks begin to fly between them. Lucia sees the sparks as a prelude to interest in each other. Diana finally has enough of London and begs to go home. Lyonel has inherited a sugar plantation not to far from Diana's home. He has only negative feelings about this inheritance as it comes with about 100 slaves. Lucia finds a family to chaperone Diana back to the West Indies and the plans are set. Lyonel is to take the same ship with her. The night before they set sail they are mugged and saved by Captain Rafeal Carstairs. Lyonel is unconscious from the attack and Diana tells Rafeal that they are husband and wife because she desperately wants to go home and the family that are to chaperone her do not show up. Rafeal takes them aboard his ship and sets sail believing they are married.
During the long journey they share a cabin and become more interested in each other. Rafeal figures out that they are not married, but by this time Lyonel has recovered and knows that he must marry Diana to save her reputation. This is not an unpleasant idea to him as he is daily becoming more intrigued by her. He tries to convince her several times to marry him but she steadfastly refuses. A couple of days before they reach their destination they are attacked by French ships. Rafeal sees a small island not far from the ship and tells lyonel and Diana to swim for it and he will return later for them. They are left on the island for a week and during that time Lyonel is taught how to survive on a deserted island and he introduces her to lovemaking and finally gets her to agree to marry him. Rafeal returns as promised and he marries them and takes them on to their destination.
Once home, Diana learns that her widowed father has remarried a women who on the surface does not like her or some of the slaves. She treats the slaves horribly and threatens to sell one of them. That slave is found dead and Lucien and Lyonel begin investigating the murder. Lyonel also visits his plantation and finds that the attorney and overseer who were in charge until he arrived are treating his slaves horribly also. He sets out to plan what to do with his plantation. He needs the cooperation of Lucien and finally gets it. Diana sets out to investigate the now several murders of young women and finds herself drugged and later on kidnapped.
The subplots in the book involve Lyonel coming to terms with the feelings his fiance left with him and deciding again that marriage is a good institution. Diana has to learn that there is nothing for her in the West Indies and that the woman her father married is really a good person with secrets that involve the murder. Readers also learn who the murderer is and why he is killing young women and why he also tries to kill his own wife and how this affect Diana, Lyonel, and Diana's father and his wife.
This report prepared by plnorth