The Marquess of Haddan, Gryffin Owain Dwight (Gryff to his friends) has grown tired of his life as a rakehell rogue and he’s ready to turn over a more serious leaf but fearing that any serious endeavors from a man reputed to be a devil-may-care soldier would be laughed at, he keeps his essays on landscape design a secret. When invited to a country house party by a group of indolent young rakes who look up to him, he accepts only because the estate is famous for its magnificent grounds. Never does he suspect that a chance encounter in the garden will change his life forever.
A widow at just 24, Eliza, Lady Lampson, has already rescued her impoverished noble family by marrying for money once. Now that she’s free, she has no interest in remarrying and wants only to pursue her passion for gardening and botanical paintings on her family’s ancestral estate. She is wary of her brother’s rakish friends and goes out of her way to avoid any contact when they are visiting from London but when she meets the infamous marquess in the gardens, she instantly senses their powerful mutual attraction and though she tries to fight it, she and Gryff embark on an illicit affair.
Unfortunately for Eliza, her irresponsible brother is incurring staggering new debts and begging her to rescue him financially by wedding a rich friend – a debauched nobleman who has plans to force Eliza into using her art to help him with his criminal activities. Meanwhile she and Gryff continue to meet and find that their physical passion is matched by a joining of their creative talents – a publisher is producing a fancy book of Gryff’s essays and he’s chosen Eliza to do the botanical illustrations. Eliza hopes that the money she earns will free her from her family’s selfish demandsbut an ultimatum from her brother and his friend makes her future seem increasingly grim … until Gryff decides to fight unscrupulous rivals and his own inner demons, hoping for the seed of a new life to take root between him and Eliza.