Verbena Barnes and Damon may have lived in the same village, but the lines between their two families are harshly enforced. The Therns own most of the village, while Mr. Barnes is merely a sailor. Once, six years before, Damon's older brother Andrew had dared to marry across those lines - to Verbena's older sister Edeline. The Barnes have since fallen upon hard times.
Then Andrew dies, leaving Edeline in a world that no longer has any use for her. Without her husband, she has no one to guarantee her the status she once had. Edeline confides her troubles to Verbena, and one of them is a secret too big to conceal for long. Against her better judgment, Verbena agrees to help. But there is one large - and complicated - impediment: Andrew's brother Damon.
Damon barely survived Napoleon's war, He has returned to the family's country home to recover. The day of Andrew's death, Damon finds Verbena in his woods, flouting the fences that are supposed to keep everyone out. He had hoped, for his own reasons, to find her. They had met once long ago, a meeting that had long-lasting consequences for him but he does not know if she even remembers him, or that brief conversation. She might not agree but she needs him, and he intends to stay very close.
His sudden and surprising interest in her puts Verbena in direct conflict with her promise to her sister. The secrets mount, tearing Verbena between family loyalty and the promise of security - and love.
It is not so easy to get rid of a man who has no intention of giving up a dream. Verbena might be willing to deny her growing feelings to keep her sister's secret, but Damon is willing to risk everything to win her heart.
He will have to, because somewhere out there is a totally unexpected threat.
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Historical melodrama with heft and romance
The book is really well researched and presents a lot of period information without being at all heavy handed. The family's troubles are realistic but the romance also sweeps you up.
There are many characters in this book and each one was given a separate and identifiable characterization. Her narration voice is so easy to listen to. I was really glad to have heard rather than read this book.