Alexander Kilbracken, Earl of Ruthven once saved the life of Charles Hawksbury, Marquess of Chandos. The Marquess promised the Earl anything thinking he would ask for money. Instead he said that one day he would need a husband for one of his daughters. The Marquess agreed. Now on his sick bed the Marquess sends his 2nd son and heir, Phillip(Hawk) to Scotland to choose a bride from the 3 daughters of the Earl. Hawk is not pleased with this particular lot but agrees to go. He interviews the 3 possible candidates.Two are lovely and well mannered. One,Francis, is ugly, plays the pianoforte horribly and sings worse. He loves the outdoors, reads, and wants only to remain at her father's side and be left alone. Hawk decides that Francis is who he wants as this choice means that he can leave her at his estate and return to his mistress and parties in London.
That is exactly what he does. He stays in London for 2 months and enjoys himself completely except for the guilt at having left his bride at Desborough Hall, one of the preimer studs in England. Since Hawk became Earl of Rothermore upon the death of his older brother the stud has been ignored and left to ruin. Francis sheds her dowdy looks and cleans up not only herself but also takes responsibility for Desborough Hall the the stud. She pours money, time , and a lot of hard work into restoring the estate. All the servants back her in her efforts. Hawk returns home to find an extrenmely beautiful wife very much in control of his estate. He fights a valiant battle but cannot deny his attraction to her. In spite and possibly because of her stubborness and drive he falls in love with her. Francis also fights a good battle to continue to hate Hawk. His lovemaking when they first married were perfunctionary at best. Now he wants to show her how enjoyable lovemaking can be and she resists his attempts.
Hawk also has an older sister, Beatrice, who is engaged to another stud owner, Edmund. Edmund offers to buy Desborough and because Francis loves the place and sees the possibilities, Hawk refuses to sell. With their best racer they begin to win at the racetracks. Suddenly attempts are made on Francis's life. In reality they don't know if someone is trying to kill Francis or the race horses she works with daily. It eventually becomes clear that Hawks older brother had been involved in stealing foals breed from champion horses and his death is looking no more like and accident but a murder instead. Beatrice and Edmund go to Desborough for a visit and all to to Newport to race horses. At one of the inns they stay at along the way another attempt is made this time on the stalls the horses are in. The stalls mysteriously catch fire but it being England, it begins to rain and it puts out the fire. Edmund shows his colors the next day when he attempts to kidnap Beatrice after Hawk and Francis discover he was the one who killed Hawk's brother. A fight breaks out and Edmund kills himself but his accomplist's go to jail for their crimes.
There are several subplots in this story. The main one being that the Marquess and the Earl of Rothermore secretly wanted Hawk to choose Francis as his bride. The second subplot involves Amelia, Hawk's mistress and her advice to Hawk about how to seduce his bride and then how she saved Hawk and Francis from Edmund and his gang. The Marquess is involved in bringing Francis and Hawk together after their marriage. We also learn about Hawk's older brother and his evil ways and how the Marquess had always known about his desreputable oldest son.
This report prepared by plnorth