When she is eighteen, Pearl Cart- wright's path is crossed by the ruthless Earl of Rossmorton and his sons, Bruce and James. Bruce rapes her and James walks in on the scene. Despite the circumstances, Pearl and he know they have fallen in love. Bruce dies and the earl, half-mad with grief, forces James, now Viscount Maxton, to help him get possession of the child Pearl is about to have, using blackmail to gain his ends. Even this cannot stifle what Maxton and Pearl share and they become lovers, knowing their happiness cannot last, for James is engaged to another woman. When Bruce's illegitimate son dies, the earl, now a completely changed man, knows he has to put right the evils he has done. His first task is to set Maxton free from the arranged marriage. Pearl finds she is pregnant and runs away to seek an abortion, rather than become a burden on James. With his father's help James sets out to find her, but will he^be in time to save the woman he adores and the child she is carrying for him ?