Rich and handsome, darling of the ton, the hope of ambitious mothers and despair of his sisters, the Marquis of Alverstoke at seven-and-thirty sees no reason to put himself out for anyone. Until a distant connection, ignorant of his selfishness, applies to him for help. When Frederica Merriville brings her three younger siblings to London determined to secure a brilliant marriage for her beautiful sister, Charis, she seeks out their distant cousin the Marquis of Alverstoke. Lovely, competent, and refreshingly straightforward, Frederica makes such a strong impression that to his own amazement, the Marquis agrees to help launch them all into society. Lord Alverstoke can't resist wanting to help her Normally wary of his family, which includes two overbearing sisters and innumerable favor-seekers, Lord Alverstoke does his best to keep his distance.
The Merrivales, a family of solid social standing, have fallen into unhappy financial straits, and the marriage might deliver them from this situation. They have come to London for the glittering social season, in order to give young and beautiful Charis a chance to make a good marriage, she may be as hen-witted as she is beautiful. Frederica herself, a gay and witty charmer, believes herself happily beyond marriageable age -- she is twenty-four, after all. They boys are also very differents, Jessamy is an interesting boy, and Felix an engaging scamp. Frederica is saddened when her prime prospect, their distant cousin Lord Alverstroke, seems totally uninterested. But when they are introduced to London society by the Marquis of Alverstoke, they find themselves both besieged by more suitors than they can possibly handle!
With his enterprising - and altogether entertaining - country cousins getting into one scrape after another right on his doorstep, before he knows it the cold Marquis finds himself dangerously embroiled and plunged into one drama after another by the large and irrepressible Merriville family, Alverstoke is surprised to find himself far from bored. He is amazed to find herself, unknowingly, finds himself thoroughly beguiled by his distand cousins and, most intriguing of all, their strongminded sister Frederica, who seems more concerned with her family's welfare than his own distinguished attentions. And when his younger cousin ends up in a terrible accident, the dutiful Marquis becomes as chivalrous as ever to the those in his charge. And Frederica begins to imagine the Marquis as match... for herself.