In Victorian-era England, fifteen-year-old Hannah is raped by a clergyman in a stable. In the morning, her father accusing her of “behaving wantonly,” whips her unconscious, and dumps her at the edge of his estate. Hannah’s friends from the neighboring manor aid her. Hannah escapes to London and is provided shelter in a well-known bordello, Madam Genevieve’s. Using her beauty, charm and resourcefulness, she is soon able to purchase the establishment.
Hannah also rescues street children from the clutches of a pimp, Skinner.
Fifteen years later, while Hannah is vacationing at the country estate of landed gentry friends, the marquis’ thirty-year-old unmarried brother, Vicar Rafe Waterford, falls madly in love with her. While Hannah is attracted to him, she returns to London upon hearing that he is a clergyman. Despite learning Hannah’s true identity, Rafe is undeterred; he follows her to London.
While the historical aspects in Landon’s novel are sparse, it’s an unusual love story between a vicar and a prostitute. However, some readers might consider certain parts unbelievable. Although the dialogue between the lovers gets somewhat repetitious – Rafe wanting Hannah to marry him, and she trying to dissuade him – scenes of their steamy kissing and skirmishes with Skinner make us read on to learn of their fate.