Indefer Jones, A wealthy landowner in Wales vacillates over whom he should bequeath the estate – Henry Jones or his niece Isabel. When he dies, he has finally made up his mind, at the last moment naming Isabel. But the will has gone missing, and only Henry, the new heir, has discovered its whereabouts.
The dissolute, childless Marquis of Brotherton has long lived abroad in Italy. Ensconced in his estate in England , Manor Cross, is his familt, including his younger brother Lord George Germain. The local Dean, Mr Lovelace, has a beautiful daughter Mary, to whom Lord George proposes, both families being eager for the match.
George Western meets, and proposes to, Cecilia Holt in Rome, and is quickly accepted. But she conceals from him the fact that she has recently been engaged to the rakish baronet Sir Francis Geraldine, only jilting him when she discovered his true nature.
Lord Hampstead, Son and heir to the Marquis of Kingsbury befriends his contemporary George Roden, who is a clerk in the General Post Office. This infuriates his snobbish stepmother, Clara. His sister, Lady Frances, falls in love with George to the grave disapproval of her family.
Mr Scarborough, wealthy owner of Tretton Park, astonishes Society by declaring his eldest son and heir, Mountjoy illegitimate. Mountjoy’s numerous creditors threaten vain law suits against the estate; whist his odious younger brother Augustus assumes his place as heir.
Twenty years previously Lady Mason has been accused – and acquitted – of forging her husband’s will. A display of unwise high-handedness by her spoiled son Lucius angers a tenant of the Orley Farm estate unnecessarily, and triggers off a fresh investigation.
Newton Priory, in Hampshire, is occupied by Squire Gregory Newton, yet entailed to his nephew Ralph, because the Squire’s own son (confusingly also called Ralph) is illegitimate. Successive attempts are made to allow the illegitimate Ralph to inherit the estate, and rivalry grows between the two cousins for the hand of a beautiful woman.
This is a novel about the death of the heart, perhaps the closest the author ever came to genuine tragedy; it is set mainly in the fells of Cumberland. After the death of his only son and heir, Sir Harry Hotspur finds that under the laws of primogeniture his title will go to a distant, worthless relative, George.
Mary Lowther, the pretty young houseguest of the vicar of Bullhampton -Frank Fenwick- turns down local squire Harry Gilmore’s proposal of marriage, choosing instead to fall in love with her cousin Walter, an army Captain home on leave from India.