Jorge and Tara are flung together by tragedy and grief, but as their courtship begins, they find magic and passion and safety and trust in each other, but not everyone wants them to be together. Tara is a wealthy, educated young British heiress, but finds herself clinging desperately to life when her ship succumbs to a storm and sinks somewhere off the coast of Portugal, where Tara was headed for on holiday with her former boarding school friends. She had just broken an engagement to a boring yet suitable young man in England named Dennis, and wants an adventure while she discovers herself. However, the voyage is doomed. The life rafts are mostly destroyed in the stormy ocean, but the one that Tara clings to somehow makes it to land, drifting to the shore of a small, rocky island.
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She wakes up inside a hut, where a mysterious stranger is tending to her. Tall, dark, lean, muscular and handsome, the bearded stranger barely speaks, but when he does, his English is perfect. He tells her that the ship sank, and that likely nobody knows she is alive. Tara is horrified by this, as well as overcome by grief for her friends and everyone else on board who drowned. She finds a strange comfort in the man's strong silence, and allows him to clean her cuts and wounds and bandage her up, and cook for her while she recovers. Tara is surprised to find that he is well-read too, and seems interested when she talks about the children's books that she writes as a hobby. His manner is strong but gentle, and in a matter of weeks, Tara feels strong enough to leave the island.
The man, who she now knows is named Jorge, has a motorboat, and sails her to Porto, where she finds the British embassy and is able to contact her parents back in London. Back in London, her friends are excited to hear of her mysterious rescuer and island adventure, but Tara only mourns those she lost on the ship, and also constantly wonders about Jorge and who he is.
Eventually Jorge contacts Tara - and it turns out that he is a Portuguese aristocrat, and his friend Lucio met Tara's friend Ellen at Ellen's debutante ball a year earlier. Eager to escape the continued attentions of Dennis and re-unite with her mysterious rescuer, Tara convinces Ellen to join her and they return to Porto, where Jorge picks them up and drives them to his ancient castle in the countryside. Tara immediately tsks at the state the castle is in, and wonders why. She learns that Jorge is recovering from grief too - that three years ago a madman among the servants slaughtered Jorge's whole family while Jorge was away at university. To deal with his grief, Jorge had shut off the castle and spent his days on the family's small private island, where Tara had washed up months ago. He tells her that tending to her had given him new purpose and meaning, and he was moving back into the castle - a "house of horrors" previously in his words - because of her. Touched, Tara decides to make the castle habitable for him. She efficiently manages an army of servants and begins to clean it up, which Lucio takes Ellen hawking and hunting. Both Ellen and Tara delight in being looked after, pampered and indulged by the two men There is also heavy petting and kissing between Tara and Jorge, though never outright sex. Tara is frustrated that Jorge is sometimes tender and forthcoming, and sometimes emotionally shut off and mocking. However, she begins to fall in love with him against her will.
Things come to a head when Jorge uncle finds out he is courting and Englishwoman instead of a Portuguese noblewoman, and threatens to disown him. Jorge wavers, and in disgust Tara prepares to leave and return to England. But Lucio and Ellen, who are now engaged, tell Jorge that Tara is planning to leave and he goes to her room, stops her, and almost has sex with her. They confess their love to each other, and the next day they both respectfully visit Jorge's uncle and persuade him to accept the marriage and keep Jorge as his heir. Charmed by Tara, the uncle eventually agrees, and the book ends with the announcement of Jorge and Tara's engagement.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the fact that both of them met because of personal tragedies in their lives.
Best scene in story:
I liked the scene where Ellen, Tavio, Jorge and Tara all go riding together as friends and Lucio talks about Portugal's history. It was a very Regency-like scene and I learned some Portuguese history.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked her brains and classy behavior.