A feckless, self-regarding young Englishman, Fred Neville, attempts to reconcile his moral obligations towards Kate O’Hara – a beautiful Irish girl he seduced whilst stationed with the cavalry in Ireland-to his duty as heir to the barren Scroope Manor in Dorset.
Sir Thomas Fitzgerald, the owner of Castle Richmond in County Cork, has a guilty secret. It is embodied in the persons of a pair of blackmailers, the Molletts, who are trying to extort money from him in return for their silence on the subject of revelations which, if published will disinherit his children in favour of his relative, Owen Fitzgerald.
Once again, an Irish setting is central to Trollope’s story, but for the first time experimented with a double plot. The Heiress Fanny Wyndham is the ward of Lord Cashel, who attempts to marry her off to his dissolute son. However, Fanny is already engaged to, (and in love with) Francis O’Kelly, Lord Ballindine.
Trollope returned to Ireland for his last work. His chief theme here was the injustice he saw being perpetrated under the increasing struggles for Irish Home Rule, and it was fired by his anger at the assassination in 1882 of the Irish Chief Secretary and Permanent Under Secretary in Dublin.
Feemy Macdermot, a vulnerable rustic beauty, has a penurious father, and an unstable brother, Thady, who is an agent and rent collector of their increasingly unprofitable land. A romantic, Feemy is an obvious prey and she is duly seduced by Captain Miles Ussher, a British policeman.