When Lydia Charingford was fifteen, she was seduced and ruined by an older man. She got pregnant, and it was only through the quick wits of her friend Minnie and the support of her family that not everyone in polite society found out about it. Lydia lost the baby, and tries very hard not to dwell on that part of her past. When Dr Jonas Grantham (the junior doctor present when she was being examined and her shame was exposed to her parents) returns to Leicester, there is suddenly someone else around who knows of her dark past, and his condescending and sarcastic demeanor makes Lydia convinced he is constantly judging her.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Jonas doesn’t even recognize Lydia again when they meet upon his return, and he’s classified her as the eleventh prettiest girl in town. He wants to find a wife quickly, for mostly pragmatic reasons, and has made a list of suitable women. After a conversation with Lydia, where he is reminded of the episode so long ago, he’s unable to put her out of his mind, and becomes more and more infatuated with her as time goes by.
Jonas disagreed strongly with the medical advice Lydia and her parents were given so long ago, but didn’t speak up because he was afraid of risking his future career. He’s always regretted it, and is determined to devote his life to saving people. His father is losing his wits to dementia, and Jonas realizes that he can’t pine for Lydia forever. He understands the reasons for her antipathy towards him, but needs a chance to change her mind. He proposes a wager, where Lydia has to accompany him on three visits to the poorest areas of Leicester. If he wins, he gets a kiss. If she wins, he’ll never speak to her again.
Full review here.