This is a superior Georgette Heyer work; a bit darker and more serious than most of her other books, but as always there is the fast wit, and a happy ending.
Kate Malvern is the orphaned daughter of a goodhearted, gambling-prone father and a beautiful but poor mother. Her father's death leaves her alone and impoverished in the world, and she comes to stay with her old nurse, Sarah, while looking for a new job. An aunt comes along and kindly and affectionately invites her to stay in her husband's family estate. Kate agrees, reluctantly-- because none of her relatives have never acknowledged her existence before. Staplewood, the estate, is beautiful and cold, and there she meets her cousin Torquil (a young man with the face of an angel), her sickly uncle Sir Timothy, and Sir Timothy's nephew Phillip. At first, everything seems too good to be true, and slowly, Kate unravels the deep secret that haunts the family.
Kate is a very charming and appealing heroine. She is mature yet innocent, is very witty and charming without being obnoxious, and is spirited without being willful or heedless. The hero, kind-hearted Phillip, is neither a dandy nor a cynical Corinthian, which is quite refreshing. Although still a Cinderella story of sorts, the romance between them is much more satisfying and believable than those in most other Heyer works.
Overall, a very interesting and different book from Georgette Heyer, and one of her best.