Rose Gwynn is determined to study as a physician in 1796, a time when women were barred from medical school. When she prevails in assisting the local doctor, Rose uncovers a shocking secret that will threaten Dr. Nelson’s livelihood. Servant Catern Tresidder returns to the village to confront the man who raped her and committed murder. After Rose’s sister is betrothed to this brutal earl, Catern struggles with her demons to warn Rose of the truth. Rose’s attraction to a man far beneath her further complicates her situation. Three people fight society’s dictates to either face ruin or forge a happy ending. Through it all, the ancient stone circle near Rose’s house holds the key to her family’s past, and is positioned through the myths of Cornwall to save her sister’s life
This novel opens with Rosenwyn Gwynn and her family arriving in Cornwall from Charleston SC in the late eighteenth Century. Rose, as she is known by the family is not your archetypal modest young girl whose ambitions extend no further than attracting a suitable husband; as to her mother’s frustration and her father’s confusion, Rose wants to be a doctor.
Her sister Claudia, being not only beautiful, but compliant, stands far more chance of fulfilling her parent’s hopes for a girl child, which in some ways allows Rose to pursue her own path. This entails a meeting with the local doctor, to whom Rose offers her services as an assistant.
Landkyp may be a small coastal village, but the inhabitants have their secrets. Firstly there is a tavern girl who seeks to make her life better, but is hampered by haunting memories of cruel treatment at the hands of the local earl. Then, when Rose finally persuades the enigmatic Doctor Nelson to take her on, he also has a secret too, one Rose pledges to keep for both their sakes.
When the ambitious Mrs Gwynn pushes the meek Claudia into a marriage with the odious earl, Rose has to find a way to save her sister and carve out the life for herself that she wants.
Ms Scott-Lewis’s characterisation, from the defiant and yet pragmatic Rosenwyn, the sweet and sugary, but delightful Claudia to the infuriating Mrs Gwynn is captivating. She includes some well-researched details of 18th Century life in the post American Revolutionary days where England is now in conflict with France.
Even her young brother Michael has a lovely part to play in this novel of family dynamics and dark secrets that threaten them. Rose even finds a handsome love interest of her own, of whom her mother disapproves, naturally.