It's the early 1830s. Twenty-four year old Philip Ashley has lived under the guardianship of his older wealthy cousin Ambrose Ashley in Ambrose's manor house on the Cornish coast of England since the passing of Philip's parents when he was a child. Ambrose has meant everything to Philip. Although he understands, Philip is nonetheless sad to see Ambrose leave temporarily for Florence, Ambrose who needs to get away from the English winters for health reasons. Ambrose's temporary vacation seems to turn permanent when he writes back to Philip stating that he has fallen in love and married widowed Rachel Sengelletti, a cousin by marriage and a native Brit who moved to Italy upon her first marriage. Philip's sadness turns to troubledness when he receives two subsequent letters from Ambrose in his deteriorating handwriting in a crazed style stating that he no longer trusts anyone in Florence including Rachel who is tormenting him, and that his health is declining. When Philip arrives in Florence to help Ambrose, he finds that Ambrose had died three weeks earlier of a brain tumor, something that Philip had recently learned was also the cause of Ambrose's father's death. Ambrose's will leaves everything to Philip to be held in trust until his twenty-fifth birthday. Rachel left Florence immediately following Ambrose's death, not certain if she would ever return. Not trusting that Rachel didn't kill Ambrose for his money perhaps not knowing about the will beforehand, Philip leaves word for Rachel to come to Cornwall for a visit, his intention to confront her with his suspicions. Upon Rachel's arrival in Cornwall, Philip finds that she is not not the staid, middle-aged shrew he was expecting, but rather a somewhat young, vibrant and attractive woman. He quickly falls for her, and has every intention of marrying her. And even if she doesn't agree to marry him, he intends to sign over Ambrose's estate to her as he learns second hand that Ambrose was intending on doing so, he not having changed his will before his death, and learns that Rachel is deep in debt. But Philip's life could be in danger if his earlier suspicions about Rachel are true, that she killed Ambrose for his money, as Philip's legal agreement states that Ambrose's money would revert back to him if she ever were to remarry, a belief some have that she is working in cahoots with her Italian lawyer, Guido Rainaldi, who may be that intended husband for love.