... The story is motivated by the attraction between Herbert Linley and the woman he hires as governess for his child Kitty - the long-suffering Sydney Westerfield. As one expects with Collins, the story is driven forward with deft assurance. Yet he also treats the theme of adultery and divorce in a manner quite unconventional for his time ... (from Broadview Press blurb).
When Sydney Westerfield's mother marries again and emigrates to America, she leaves her daughter in the care of her unmarried sister, who runs a school in London. The formidable Miss Wigger sees her only as someone she can exploit, and Sydney becomes drawn and pale as this bitter life takes its toll. Sydney secretly advertises for a position as a governess and Herbert Linley comes to seek her services. For the first time, she finds heartfelt compassion and sympathy and accepts his offer of employment in Scotland. Will the gratitude she feels toward her rescuer remain untainted by more complicated passions, or will the family live to repent her engagement?