Clarissa Manning receives a frantic visit from her best friend, Jane Hornsby, who is employed as a governess at Trury Priory, and learns she's been terrorized by the Marquess of Chester's friend, Frederic Black. Clarissa is hired as a temporary substitute for Jane whom she describes as having contracted the measles. Clarissa hopes to increase her family's financial situation by writing a romance novel. She believes she can do research for it at the Priory. She befriends the Marquess' daughter, realizing the child desperately needs a friend as well as a teacher. The handsome Marquess seems lonely, too. She finds herself attracted to him but believes his lofty title and her lesser one are incompatible. Very soon, Clarissa finds herself the target for seduction by both men.
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