Philip Astonley, youngest son of the Viscount Felkoner, also known as the Falcon to a select few (which is surprising to me as it’s not exactly a secret identity very different from his family name), is hired by the wealthy and powerful Marquess of Hedgrave to steal a sandalwood statue and bring it from India to England. He can barely believe his luck when he discovers that the statue is given as a gift to Miss Amanda Davencourt as a farewell gift from her dear friend, the Rani Simhi, also known in India as the Great Lioness. He ambushes Amanda on her way home and steals the statue, but discovers that the rani is close on his trail and has poisoned his servant, near fatally. In order to get passage on the next ship to London, he has to pretend that his servant is one of Hedgrave lawyers, while he is in fact said man’s valet.
It just so happens that Amanda Davencourt is on board the same ship, along with her chaperone and one of the rani’s most dangerous servants, who ran away to escape his mistress’ wrath once he discovered that Amanda had been attacked. Amanda knows that Hedgrave wanted the statue, and suspects that his lawyer may have it in his possession. She fully believes Philip’s ruse that he is a servant, though, which also causes difficulties on the long journey back to England as the Philip tries to get to know her to discover if she’s one of the rani’s clever accomplices or just as innocent and naive as she seems to be. As they spend more time together, Amanda and Philip grow more attracted to each other, and as she believes him to be a simple valet, it’s not like anything can come from their shipboard attraction.
Amanda isn’t quite as innocent and sheltered as Philip believes, and manages to steal the sandalwood statue back before Philip and his servant are about to leave the ship in Portsmouth. Having been promised fifty thousand pounds for the artifact, not to mention because his professional pride has been wounded, outsmarted by a spinster, Philip tracks Amanda down to her remote estate in Yorkshire and manages to convince her that he was fired when his employer discovered the statue was missing. He’s hired to be her butler, and shortly after also takes the duties as secretary.