One minute Amaryllis Duvane is the belle of the London season - a "diamond of the first water", desired by every man and envied by every woman. Even better, she's about to marry the man of her dreams.
Life is not easy for the poor relations of England's upper crust, but fate and clever schemes bring them together. Lady Fortescue and Colonel Sandhurst hatch a plan: What if they were to transform her decrepit Bond Street home into a posh hotel, offering their guests the pleasure of being waited upon by nobility? With the help of other down-and-out aristocrats, they do just that, and London's newest hotel, the Poor Relation, is born.
Eliza Budley is a beautiful widow whose husband gambled away his fortune. Lady Fortescue reminds the others that, to be fair, Mrs. Budley has no relatives on whom she can call. Gentle Mrs. Budley thinks she has escaped her fate until Sir Philip comes up with a plan. He has heard that the elderly Marquess of Peterhouse is senile, a widower, extremely rich, and unlikely to remember whether Mrs. Budley is a relative. So off Mrs. Budley goes to the bleak castle, where the marquess turns out to be not so old, hardly senile, and in fact quite handsome.
Owing to an unfortunate wager made by Sir Philip, the poor relations are once again scrounging around for a plan for solvency. This time it is Colonel Sandhurst to the rescue. After happening on Sir Randolph's lovely daughter Frederica, who is running away to escape an awful marriage to Lord Bewley, the Colonel devises a plan to force Sir Randolph to settle his bill for six month's stay and to save Frederica from her fate. The clever plan is thwarted when Lord Bewley shows up at the drop point instead of Sir Randolph.
Just when everything at the Poor Relation Hotel seems to be running smoothly, Sir Philip brings in another poor relation, Mrs. Budge. When Sir Philip presents his paramour, Lady Fortescue swears great oaths and says the woman is probably related to half the costermongers in London and certainly does not possess one rich relative. Mrs. Budge does nothing but eat all day and refuses to do any work around the hotel. Worst of all, Miss Tonks seems to be taking the romance between Sir Philip and Mrs. Budge quite hard.
The poor relations' hard-earned success, however, is in stark contrast to the plight of their latest guest, Lady Jane Fremney. The slight, beautiful youngest daughter of the Earl of Durby has been cast out of her family for refusing to marry the man her father has chosen. Lonely and bankrupt, Lady Jane has decided to commit suicide. But when Miss Tonks uncovers her plans, the poor relations go into action again to try to rescue Lady Jane from suicide, her father, and her intended.
When the boy entrusted to an earl is really a girl, the complications are delightful. The 10th earl of Berham does not know what to do. An attractive 32-year-old bachelor, he has been appointed guardian of the young Freddie Armstrong, the 18-year-old grandson of his late father's dear friend. That's bad enough. Then he discovers that the boy is really a girl! It is against all convention and against his personal code to keep a young lady concealed in his own home. He must find a solution.
Blessed with beauty, Mrs. Manners never bothered with the lesser skills of grammar and spelling. So, in order to entrap a second husband, namely the dashing duke of Denbigh, she needed Miss Verity Bascombe. Surely the modest chit would be honored to write her love letters. Poor Verity! Her old schoolmate was as selfish as ever. The lovely girl's gilded pen soon had the duke most intrigued by the poetic Mrs. Manners! But alas, what began as a tiny deception became troublesome indeed - for Verity soon found herself enamored by the handsome duke!
He stated quite bluntly - and much to Isabella's relief - that theirs would be a marriage in name only. But neither Harry nor Isabella was aware of the other's disguise - contrived in vain to thwart the impending nuptials. Isabella was not the selfish ice princess she seemed, nor was Harry a mincing dandy but rather a merry profligate. A search for buried treasure and a thwarted suitor out for revenge add adventure to the marital mayhem, as two hearts discover that love lies no further than the nearest kiss.
It was true. The lovely young widow Lady Charteris - Delphine to her friends - had agreed to abide by her parents' wishes and marry the comte Saint-Pierre. Delphine's parents had long since died in the Terror, but when she learned of their wishes for her, she believed it her duty to respect their wishes. Delphine would marry, but it would be a marriage in name only.
Tongues were set wagging when Elizabeth Markham's glamorous young parents were killed, sinking their only child to the unspeakable class of poor relation. Forced to live with her cruel, miserly uncle Julius, Elizabeth is forbidden to partake in the season's festivities. Marriage is her only escape, and she enacts a daring plan to trick her way into the duke of Dunster's exclusive house party, to snare one of the eligible dandies sure to dance attendance on her.
Lady Lucinda Esmond's swine of a father, the earl of Sotheran, was forever fleecing young bucks in London's gaming halls with impunity - until he cheats Captain Mark Chamfrey, who kidnaps 10-year-old Lucinda for ransom. But when Chamfrey has a change of heart and returns the girl, Earl Esmond nonetheless exacts his own price: Chamfrey can redeem himself and save his skin only by marrying his little victim nine years hence.
Lord Percy Hunterdon despaired: He had inherited a Gothic horror of an estate along with a pair of 15-year-old brats to marry off. It was no secret to him that finding husbands for these two vile young ladies would require the utmost expertise: the care of a governess of superior caliber. When Jean Morrison spied Lord Hunterdon's advertisement, dreams of an unmarried viscount and a magnificent castle danced in her head.
Must one sister suffer in poverty while the other lives in the lap of luxury? This question plagued Harriet Clifton incessantly. Inviting herself to her widowed sister Cordelia's posh London townhouse for the season was surely the only way to meet a suitable partner as well as escape drafty old Pringle House forever.