Ian Carmichael, Duke of Portmaine, is a wealthy, proud aristrocrat and has been a widower for several years. He has a nominal heir, his cousin Giles, but understands that he must do his duty to his title and estates and marry again. He endures part of the London season and becomes engaged to Lady Felicity Trammerley who reminds him of his first wife physically and who he believes to be like her in personality also. He hates the Season however and is delighted to find that he has inherited estates in Scotland and another title to go with them, Earl of Penderleigh. In the letter from his attorney he learns he has a great aunt and 3 female cousins. He is now there guardian. He believes that being an absentee landlord is not a good thing and against Lady Felicity's wishes goes to Scotland to see what is what.
Once at Penderleigh Castle he finds 2 male cousins and a great uncle and wonders why they did not inherit. He discoveres that one, Percy, was born a bastard and the uncle and his son Bernard are the descendents of a disinherited son of a former earl. The disinheritance changed the line of descendency. He tours his lands, goes through the account books with his cousin Bernard and tours local factories. Penderleigh had all the natural resources it needs to be self sufficient it just needs money. He and Bernard decide that his crofters will become sheep herders and make the necessary purchases and changes needed.
The eldest of the 3 female cousins is Brandy. She dresses like a peasant. Her clothes are little more than rags and her hair is always in braids making her look several years younger that her almost 19 years. She always wears a shawl, even in summer. She loves to fish and be outdoors and is the mother figure to her youngest sister Fiona an energetic 6 year old. She wears her shawl to hid her ugly misshapen body.(At least she believes it is ugly). Despite her efforts she has a hard time keeping Percy at arms length. He keeps trying to get her away from the other so he can rape her and force her into marriage.
Ian also finds a great aunt, Adella, who is always causing trouble among the men. She decides to make Percy legitimate and then plans to re inherit her nephew, Claude and his son Bernard. She loves to cause grief among them. She also rules the 3 young girls with an iron fist. She believes herself lord and master at Penderleigh.
Ian stays to long in Scotland and soon finds his fiance and Giles at Penderleigh. Felicity is all that is rude and condesending to all that live there. Ian soon realizes his mistake and in doing so finds that he is attracted to Brandy.
One afternoon Ian is shot. Brandy saves his life when she covers him with her body to protect him from 2 other shots fired. It is apparent that someone wants him dead. Ian's valet takes care of him during the day and Brandy nurses him at night. He takes fever and in his delirium thinks that Brandy is his first wife and makes love to her. Once he realizes what he has done he offers marriage to her and is refused. Lady Felicity over steps herself in her rudeness and she and Ian break their engagement. As Brandy will not have him because he cannot deny he still loves his first wife, he returns to England. It is thought that this will also take him out of range of the murderer. Just as he is leaving Brandy asks him for 100 pounds no questions asked. He give her 200 pounds and leaves. A couple of months later he is invited to Penderleigh to attend a wedding. By now he realizes he loves Brandy and returns to make her marry him.. He no sooner gets there but Brandy is kidnapped. He sets out to rescue her. This time he discovers who the would be murderer is and he also learns how his first wife died.
This report prepared by plnorth