London, England 1666
Forced to live with her sister, Christina, and her brother-in-law, Lord Walter Montrose, after the death of their parents, Lady Victoria “Tori” Spenser is subjected to the whims and jealousies of her older sister. No new cases of plague had been reported since January; still, Christina would not leave her house for fear of getting ill. Sending Tori out on errands regardless of weather or conditions when the servants were busy assured that she was happy.
Demanding a bottle of her favorite perfume, Christina sends Tori out just as the great London fire is beginning. Fighting her way through streets filled with fire and panic-stricken citizens, Tori finds herself trapped on a dead-end street in an unfamiliar part of London. Wooden structures ablaze and collapsing around her turns terror into a living nightmare when Tori is burned by a falling building front.
Completing his own errand with one of his businesses, Duke Gerald Rothforth manages to extinguish Tori’s burning skirts and takes her to his home where he and his wife can care for her. Trying to ignore her terrible burns, Tori pleads to be allowed to go home fearing that her sister needs her.
Duke Rothforth sends a message to Christina informing her of Tori’s injuries, and that she is safe with them. Christina’s reply is cold and heartless, infuriating the Rothforth family, who then decide to keep Tori with them indefinitely.
Returning to London from his estate of Grayson, Taylor Rothforth, Marquess Heritage, finds London ablaze in the great London fire of 1666. Fighting the fire for most of the day, he returns to his parents’ home to learn that his father has rescued Lady Victoria Spenser from the blazing inferno. Mistaking Tori for a burglar when she tries to go home in the middle of the night, Taylor tackles her and learns his mistake, to his horror. Carrying her back to her room, he falls asleep while soothing her from the pain he has caused her. He is discovered in her room the next morning by his mother and a maid; he agrees to marry Tori, despite her protests.
Tori’s legal guardian, Lord Montrose, serving as an ambassador for King Charles II in Europe, cannot be reached for his consent for the marriage, leaving King Charles II, who happens to be the Duke’s cousin, to accept guardianship and give permission for Taylor to marry Tori.
Taylor believed that his ability to love had been destroyed by the death of his fiancée two weeks before their wedding nine years prior. Distraught, he purchased a commission as an officer in the Royal Navy. After serving eight years, he returns to civilian life to prepare for his eventual place as the next Duke Rothforth. To his surprise, feelings for his young bride begin to surface, filling his life with a completeness he hadn’t expected.
Returning from their honeymoon in Bath, King Charles II closes Parliament over suspicious disloyalty, allowing Taylor and Victoria to spend the Christmas season at his favorite estate, Grayson. Misunderstanding, illness, intrigue, and treachery, threaten their happiness and future.
It is truly a fate by fire.