From Goodreads: Miss Mariah Aubrey, banished after a scandal, hides herself away in a long-abandoned gatehouse on the far edge of a distant relative's estate. There, she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how--by writing novels in secret.
Captain Matthew Bryant, returning to England successful and wealthy after the Napoleonic wars, leases an impressive estate from a cash-poor nobleman, determined to show the society beauty who once rejected him what a colossal mistake she made. When he discovers an old gatehouse on the property, he is immediately intrigued by its striking young inhabitant and sets out to uncover her identity, and her past. But the more he learns about her, the more he realizes he must distance himself. Falling in love with an outcast would ruin his well-laid plans. The old gatehouse holds secrets of its own. Can Mariah and Captain Bryant uncover them before the cunning heir to the estate buries them forever?
My take: The book is reminiscent of a Jane Austen story but brings to awareness the glaring inequality of tainted reputations regarding men and women. Mariah had a moment of poor judgment and was caught expressing less than stellar morals. Oops. She's ruined. Practically disowned by her family and cut off from her old life, she is sent to live with an eccentric aunt and her stepson who is really quite disagreeable. She wants to write novels but writing is not acceptable in polite society. However, neither is her previous behavior.
Meanwhile, men are cavorting all the time in polite society. They are also writing novels. Their reputations do not suffer and they are still welcome at the dinner table (ahem), I mean high tea. Captain Bryant is a spineless man who suffers from ethical blindness in other areas. Fortunately, a friend from his military life comes to live with him and tells him off a time or two.
Mariah's relationships with new friends from the poorhouse, an armless wonder, and her old nanny (now referred to as companion since she is too old for a nanny) is entertaining and, at times, very sweet. I enjoyed the 19th century English setting and the Jane Austen society principles being called into question.