Lexington, KY – At 9 years of age, Gemma Hardy has vague but fond memories of her family living on the seaside of Iceland and of her widower father going off to fish in the morning and returning home at night with his bounty –– and the warm embrace that she cherished.
The day that he did not return from the sea is one that fiercely grips her memory, and now, as she is living in her uncle’s home in Scotland, she still finds herself in disbelief that he is gone and she is an orphan. And when her uncle dies suddenly, her abrupt status within his family to a Cinderella-like servant is bewildering.
Huddled in a cold dormer after a day of house labor, and suddenly omitted from family festivities without her uncle’s protective eye upon her, a fever descends her into a dark daze. When she awakes to a doctor’s gaze and his caring suggestion that she take advantage of a scholarship a private school offers, she jumps at the opportunity.
But again she finds herself in a situation with no one who cares about her –– and when the only friend she has managed to make dies, she wonders whether everything she comes to love is ruined by her existence. Managing, though in her subservient role at the school, to gain an education after her years there, she takes a job as a nanny in an isolated part of the country. Though secure there in many regards, her loneliness echoes in every unoccupied moment.
After months of his absence, her first meeting with the estate’s master, brings an air of vibrancy to the home –– and her life. Their attraction is immediate and Gemma is drawn into his world –– a world of secrecy, mystery, love and deceit that covers her with the veil of doubt and despair that has enveloped her since the days of her memories of Iceland. Her escape from it nearly claims her life.