Traumatized by a blaze that killed her parents, young Johanna Vaughan remembers nothing of her privileged past. She remains ignorant of the complexities and dangers that surround her and gladly accepts a new identity when her guardians, an aging tenant couple, deem it necessary to disguise her as their adopted son. Raised among the servants, she develops a sense of purpose that helps her survive the betrayal that unmasks her true identity. Forced to take her proper place in Regency society as the highly-sought heiress to the Ambersley fortune, she must defy the relatives who would make her a pawn in their struggle for power.
When her distant cousin Derek Vaughan inherits the dukedom, his dubious parentage makes it sacrilege to accept. But touched by the ravaged estate and its destitute servants, he confronts a society that shunned him while he rebuilds Ambersley and protects it from his stepmother's bankrupting clutches. He intends to grant the title to his half-brother when the boy comes of age, but Derek's plans go awry from the moment the gardener's apprentice—once his trusted young friend—is revealed to be not only an heiress of beauty and spirit, but the one woman who may finally capture his heart.