Elinor is on her way to become a governess for a wealthy woman in the country – a job she’s had to take after her father gambled away the family’s fortune. She’s met at the post coach by the house’s personal coach, and about an hour later is shown into the study of a man who thinks Elinor is the woman he’s contracted to marry his cousin. Lord Carlyon is Eustace Cheviot’s heir, but doesn’t want to inherit, and so has been desperately trying to find someone to marry his cousin. (Seriously. I am not making this up.)
Elinor quickly realizes the mistake, but while she and Carlyon are trying to back out of the awkward situation, word comes that Mr. Cheviot has gotten into a fight, and is on his deathbed. And somehow, Carlyon snookers both Elinor and Eustace into the marriage. Have I lost you yet?
This is definitely one of the completely anachronistic Heyer stories that you have to suspend all disbelief on, and just go with it. Because Elinor’s absolutely a member of the Carlyon family from that moment forward (the younger brother is a hoot), and it very quickly turns into a spy story. Believe it or not, it’s a fair amount of fun. Completely unbelievable for the time it’s set in, but fun.