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Bound since childhood to an arranged marriage with the restless and irresponsible heir of Houghton Hall, Viscount Miles Houghton; Lady Catherine Abbott, now grown, finds herself torn between duty to her family and her smoldering ambitions. Possessed of a nimble, curious mind, a love of science and the natural world, and a singular talent for illustration, Catherine desperately longs to accomplish something before she resigns herself to a loveless marriage and the idle, aristocratic whirl of parties and social gatherings within the confines of the palatial Houghton Hall.
Banished before his final year of medical training for pushing harder on the boundaries of scientific knowledge than any student at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, the mysterious and driven Simon McKensie has blurred the lines between research and criminality and must now choose between exile to the rural country village of Wells, or the hangman's noose.
When the terrifying Great Plague of 1665 spreads from London to Wells, the town's very existence is threatened and Catherine must confront her fears, her place in the world – and the burning passions she has long held inside.