Diane Perkins’ Synopsis

By Honor Bound

An embittered cavalry officer learns that no honorable deed goes unpunished when he returns to England after Waterloo to discover the unwed mother whose baby he delivered is now masquerading as his wife.

Captain John Grayson chose to serve England rather than dance attendance on his autocratic father, the Earl of Summerton. After the death of Gray’s older brother, the earl had insisted Gray stay on the estate at his beck and call, but Gray used an inheritance to purchase a cavalry commission instead. For that defiance, the earl banished him from the estate. Free of his father’s tyranny, Gray vowed never to return.

In the army he befriended Leonard Lansing, a fellow fun-loving soldier, and together they caroused their way through the army. Winding up in Spain, Lansing tricked Gray into compromising the daughter of a Spanish aristocrat. Gray did the honorable thing and married her. She followed him into battle and was killed before his eyes by exploding canister shot. Her death haunts him.

Maggie Delaney has yearned for a home and family ever since her parents and brother were drowned when she was nine years old. Raised in boarding schools paid for by a disinterested uncle, then left to toil as a lady’s companion, she’d thought her dreams had come true when she met and married a young militia officer who convinced her their
marriage must remain a secret. Their clandestine meetings thrilled her and filled her with hope for her future, but he stopped meeting her. When she discovered herself with child, she sought him out. He came to their secret meeting place. Their quarrel became a physical tussle. Before she could tell him of her pregnancy, he pushed her and she pushed back, causing him to fall into the river and be swept away. Convinced she killed him, Maggie fled to London. Months passed until, penniless and friendless, she read her husband’s name in the society pages. Huge with child and believing him duty-bound to help her, she searched for him.

The story begins when Gray is in London on convalescent leave. He is awoken from a guilty nightmare of his Spanish wife’s death and opens his door to find Maggie in the late stages of labor. Gray delivers her baby, an event that inspires in him as much awe as anxiety. He is moved by Maggie’s immediate devotion to her infant son, until she informs him she is seeking her husband, John Grayson. Gray tells her he is John Grayson.

Maggie eventually realizes he is the real John Grayson and her husband, a liar. Again assuming her husband is dead, Maggie tells Gray nothing about herself, for fear of being accused of murder and leaving her baby with no one to care for him. At first Gray thinks she is trying to trap him into marriage, but then he figures another John Grayson must be her
estranged husband. He arranges for his kind-hearted cousin to take Maggie in and help her find her husband, leaving a generous stipend to fund her search. Assisting the young mother helps ease his guilt over his Spanish wife’s death. Maggie’s image lingers in his mind when he returns to war.

The cousin and his wife find marriage papers with Gray’s name upon them and believe Maggie is truly Gray’s wife. They take her and the baby to Gray’s father’s estate, figuring Gray will return for her and will also reconcile with his father.

Maggie is shocked when the cousins take her to Summerton Hall, Gray’s father’s estate, but what can she do? Making any inquiries about her husband puts her at risk of being accused of his murder. Besides, she can think of no other way to support her son. She will do anything to ensure his welfare. Anything. Even masquerade as John Grayson’s wife. The intimacy of sharing her baby’s birth with this man haunts her, and pretending to be married to him seems poor thanks, but Maggie has run out of options.

Her first moments at Summerton Hall are like a descent into Bedlam. The Earl is gruff and authoritarian. Gray’s sister-in–law is withdrawn and silent, still mourning Gray’s late brother. Gray’s little nephew, the earl’s heir, is lonely and neglected. They are all unhappy people, who
have isolated themselves from local society. They accept Maggie without question and soak up her loving nature like dry sponges.

To atone for her duplicity, Maggie decides to do anything she can to ease their unhappiness while she searches for another way to care for her son. As they welcome her into the family, however, Summerton becomes the home she’s yearned for since the death of her own family.

Nearly a year after Waterloo, a battle-weary Gray is bound back to England. Traveling on the same ship is Leonard Lansing. Until Waterloo, Gray had last seen Lansing during a debauched leave they shared in England where Lansing transferred into the militia and left Gray alone to answer for compromising the Spanish girl. During Waterloo, Gray rescued Lansing. On this return ship, the self-serving Lansing professes his gratitude and apologizes to Gray about the Spanish girl. Gray walks away from him.

Unsure of where he will be staying, Gray has his trunk shipped to his cousin’s in London. When he visits, his cousin chides Gray for abandoning his wife. Gray protests he has no wife, but his cousin talks of seeing marriage papers with his name upon them. The cousin tells Gray he took Maggie to Summerton. Furious, Gray rushes to Summerton to confront her.

Maggie is even more beautiful and compelling than Gray remembered. Furthermore, his home is not the gloomy place he’d fled all those years ago. His father still wounds Gray with bitter words, but, with one word from Maggie, tempers his ill-humor. His shy sister-in-law has blossomed into an elegant woman. His nephew has become a cheerful, energetic nine-year-old. Maggie has brought about these changes, Gray realizes. If he exposes her, will it pitch his family back into the gloom from which he’d once escaped? Could she trap him into another unwanted marriage? And even if he could prove he wasn’t her husband, what would this scandal do to his family?

In truth Maggie has no intention of trapping Gray. She cannot blame him for his fury. She knows she must leave Summerton, but still has no way to support her son, and it grieves her to lose the family she’s come to love.

Gray’s bedchamber adjoins hers, and she enters it to try to talk with him. He is full of drink and she is beautiful. He teases her, demanding a husband’s rights. He kisses her and comes perilously close to making good his threat. Stopping in time, Gray is appalled by his dishonorable behavior.

When Maggie quickly realizes he will not force himself on her, she, too, is affected, and her body flares in response to his touch. Gray demands she explain how his name came to be on the marriage papers. She is afraid to tell the truth.

When Gray’s head clears he realizes he is caught in another compromise from which there is no escape. He must be her husband or his family will suffer disgrace. Gray rails at his entrapment and lets Maggie know he holds her responsible. Again he demands she explain why she chose him. Again she refuses to tell.

Gray treats her with cold civility, but, as time goes on, Maggie sees much to admire in him. The wariness with which he and his father regard each other is painful to behold, but Maggie sees Gray be gentle to the older man. Gray begins to appreciate Maggie’s energy and devotion to his home. When one of the farm buildings catches fire, Maggie cringes to see
Gray run into the burning building. Gray discovers Maggie working as hard as anyone on the bucket brigade.

Shortly after the fire, Gray realizes something is amiss with his father. Maggie tells him the earl has suffered strokes, affecting his ability to think, reason, and remember. He is not competent to run the estate. Maggie and the estate manager make the important decisions. Gray mourns the loss of his father and any chance they had for a true reconciliation. His father’s impaired condition will trap Gray into remaining to care for the family and the estate. Maggie can hardly bear seeing Gray in such pain. She comforts him, and again they almost become intimate.

Just when things seem to be working out, Gray’s cousin and his wife visit, again meddling. In Gray’s trunk they discovered papers revealing his marriage to the Spanish girl. His cousin blurts out that Gray is a bigamist in front of Gray’s sister-in-law and a neighbor, a widower who regularly calls upon the family. Consumed with guilt for causing Gray such an unjust
accusation and appalled that she’d never considered he could have another wife, Maggie starts to tell them all the truth, but Gray stops her. Gray explains that his Spanish wife is dead.

Later when he and Maggie are alone the high emotions both experienced lead them to nearly make love. Pining with need for him, Maggie wishes theirs could be a real marriage, but he pulls away as if repelled by the thought of intimacy with her. Gray, however, is surprised at the ferocity of his desire for her, but he cannot forget his anger at being forced into a false marriage. He wants to know why she entrapped him, but she again refuses to reveal her secrets.

Unsettled by his persistent desire for Maggie, Gray avoids her, but one day Maggie’s son insists he go for a walk and Gray cannot say no. Maggie and Gray’s nephew also go along. When the two boys fall into the stream, Gray and Maggie jump in after them. Maggie watches while the stream nearly carries away Gray and the boys. After Gray brings them all home safe, Maggie remains in shock at the near repeat of seeing those she loves drown. Gray reaches out for her. The only way he can think of to get her to talk about what troubles her, is to tell her his secrets, about abandoning his family, marrying the Spanish girl, and watching her die. His honesty and pain jolt Maggie out of her stupor. She makes love to him.

They have an idyllic few days. One morning Gray asks Maggie to really marry him, but he leaves her the impression that the proposal is out of obligation.

Gray’s sister-in-law returns from her first country house party since her husband died. Maggie has encouraged a match between the sister-in-law and the widowed neighbor, who also attended the party, but another gentleman accompanied her home.

It is Leonard Lansing. The man Maggie married as John Grayson. The man she thought she drowned in the river. Filled with despair, she finally tells Gray the story of her marriage and her fear that she’d be accused of murder.

Lansing is shocked to see Maggie. He’d jumped at the chance to visit Summerton, but never thought he’d find Maggie there. Lansing had used Gray’s name to falsely marry Maggie as a perverse way of getting back at the man who had everything Lansing craved. Lansing’s mother was the earl’s mistress and Lansing never forgot the impressive man. He knew the
earl had a son nearly his own age, a boy who had privilege and respectability, everything the youthful Lansing craved. Lansing had deliberately purchased a commission in the same regiment as Gray and had delighted getting Gray in trouble. He’d set Gray up with the Spanish girl deliberately to ruin Gray in the eyes of his family. War had not been to Lansing’s taste, however, so he’d traded places with a more battle hungry young officer in the militia.
Then he met Maggie, and amused himself with an elaborate ruse to bed her. It had almost killed him.

The connection between Lansing and Maggie is kept secret from the others. Gray is furious at Lansing for seducing and abandoning her. He confronts his former friend, who protests that he has resolved to reform his life since his two brushes with death. Lansing assures Gray he will accept responsibility for Maggie. Gray nearly puts his fist in Lansing’s face, but he realizes Lansing has the stronger obligation to Maggie. Lansing is, after all, the father of the boy Gray has begun to love as his own. But is Gray honor bound to let her go?

When she considers Gray’s strength of character, Maggie wonders how she’d ever succumbed to Lansing’s charm. A man with Gray’s sense of honor could be trusted to keep his word, but Maggie will never trust Lansing.

She overhears Gray wrestling with his mixed emotions, talking to the portrait of his family in the parlor. He sarcastically says that Lansing gives him the means to turn back the clock, and she misunderstands, thinking he wishes to be rid of her. Lansing, with his offer to honor his obligation to her, provides her the means to free Gray. If she leaves with Lansing, Gray will be freed from the false marriage. Maggie loves him enough to free him.

Lansing, Gray, and Maggie keep their complicated situation secret from Gray’s father and sister-in-law while they struggle with what to do. Lansing continues to spend time with the sister-in-law, halfway falling in love with her. He is often interrupted by visits from the neighboring widower. The earl succumbs to Lansing’s easy charms and Maggie rails inside at
the injustice of the earl’s ill-treatment of the honorable son contrasted with his delight in the dishonorable visitor.

As Gray becomes closer to her son, Maggie discovers that Lansing does not want children. She decides to keep her son a secret from Lansing. She believes Gray will love and protect her son. To save them both, she must leave them. Gray sees Lansing talking to Maggie and believes it a romantic tryst.

Lansing enjoys Summerton Hall and hints at wishing he could stay. He would like to be courting the sister-in-law instead of Maggie, but he professes to be serious about honoring his marriage to Maggie. Lansing explores the gallery and finds old swords. He convinces Gray to spar with him.

The swordfight turns treacherous as each man’s turbulent emotions are sparked. Gray is jealous of Lansing, believing him to have charmed Maggie away from Gray. Lansing is jealous of Gray, the earl’s son who has the fancy estate and lofty title. The fight ends with Gray’s sword at Lansing’s neck. Gray barely manages not to cut Lansing’s throat. His murderous rage appalls him.

Maggie witnesses the fight from a window and realizes she must leave with Lansing soon, by the next day. Maggie knows her sacrifice will protect all the others–Gray from a forced marriage with her. Her son from poverty. Her sister-in-law from a seduction by Lansing. The whole family from scandal, for a plausible story will be concocted for her leaving with Lansing and, shortly after, a message will arrive announcing her death. The knowledge
gives her a feeling of strength.

That night Gray approaches her to discuss the matter. He invites her to stay, but, trying to leave the decision in her hands, implies that he is merely trying to be honorable. Maggie decides to be selfish for one last time. She spends the night making love to Gray.

When he wakes, he resolves to keep her with him no matter what honor dictates, and he happily goes about estate business. In his absence, Maggie prepares to leave, saying goodbye to her son, Gray’s father, Gray’s sister-in-law (who has become betrothed to the widowed neighbor). She leaves with Lansing.

That evening when Gray returns he finds Maggie and Lansing gone. He believes she’s chosen Lansing over him, until he discovers Maggie’s son remains at Summerton. He finds her letter begging him to care for her son and explaining that she’d freed him from the trap of marrying her. Gray realizes Maggie’s reason for leaving had more to do with loving him than loving
Lansing. Honor be damned, Gray races off to find her and bring her back.

Gray travels the dangerous roads throughout the night, locating the correct inn when morning is quite advanced. He finds Lansing, but Maggie is gone. Lansing tells him Maggie is probably on her way back to Summerton. Lansing is sorely vexed that his effort to do the right thing has been scorned by her. At Gray’s insistence Lansing vows never to trouble them again.

Gray rushes back to Summerton, but Maggie is not there. His cousin arrives to tell Gray Maggie is staying at his estate until she can locate a position. The cousin and Gray travel there in haste.

Gray discovers Maggie in the garden, clutching a man’s shirt, staring vacantly into space. He walks up to her and asks her about the shirt. She explains it is his, the one he gave her to wrap her newborn baby in. She kept it in memory of both of them. Gray holds her in his arms and tells her he loves her and wants nothing more than to be her true husband and the father of her child. He asks her to marry him and return to Summerton with him. Maggie, cries out with joy and accepts his offer.

In the epilogue, Maggie gives birth to her second child. She and Gray refuse the help of the midwife and once again Gray delivers a beautiful baby into the world. A daughter named Honoria.