A highly accomplished first novel that follows the adventures of Rachel Dean--a disinherited heiress whose struggle against the stifling forces of 19th-century English society wins her excitement, scandal, and a more passionate life than she ever would have dreamed. The unwanted daughter of a drunken shopkeeper and his beautiful, ambitious wife, Rachel Dean falls in love at the age of eight with the fast person who treats her with respect. The fact that Adam Gaunt is a mysterious stranger washed up on the shore of her Newfoundland village after his ship was wrecked means nothing to Rachel. In fact, she's so smitten that when she meets Adam again at age 17, at her aunt's house in liverpool, Rachel practically forces the 35-year-old to the altar despite his protestations that he has no desire for a wife. Resigned, the feckless adventurer takes Rachel to America, but soon disappears--murdered, apparently, by Indians. Alone and grieving for her dead husband, Rachel must stoop to singing in a Missouri saloon to earn the fare back to England for herself and her young son. Once back in Liverpool, she marries the wealthy owner of a shipping company, largely for her son's sake, and resigns herself to a life of propriety and boredom. Then Adam reappears, rich from the California Gold Rush and intent on reclaiming her as his wife. Horrified to learn that Adam deserted her, Rachel realizes she still loves him nevertheless. When her husband dies of fever, the way to a romantic reunion seems clear. But now Rachel has discovered a new passion: her deceased husband's shipping business. Enjoying complete independence for the first time, Rachel begins to understand why Adam needed his. She hesitates on the brink of reestablishing their marriage, considering what her aunt used to say: a widow can do as she pleases. . . Full of spirit, rich in historical detail, and utterly captivating from beginning to end: a winner.