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Grandfather Joseph was always an autocrat. When he summons the widowed Louise to Bath from her Devon home he makes it impossible for her to refuse his demand she goes at once to London to supervise Matilda's come out. She is his great niece, aged seventeen, and sure she will attract many offers because of her wealth and beauty. Her mother spends all her time in Cheltenham being an invalid. Meanwhile the Earl of Newark frets to be back in the Peninsula, but is prevented by his uncle, Sir Arthur, a fashionable doctor, because of an injury that still causes occasional blackouts, and must content himself with working in the Foreign Office. Sir Arthur also urges him to marry and provide an heir so that his wild nephew Cedrid does not succeed to the title.
Louise's mother, with her second husband, lives in London and takes them shopping. Lady Barlow will try to get vouchers for Almack's. Matilda is aghast if she cannot. Matilda creates problems with her unsuitable clothes and it is when she causes the staid carriage horses belonging to Sir Henry to bolt that Louise and the Earl meet.
Louise's mother-in-law Isabel, Dowager Lady Rushton, comes to stay with Lady Barlow. They are all enjoying the Season apart from Matilda, who finds she has few partners at balls and fewer invitations to drive out. She is glad to accept drives with Sir Henry. He tells Louise she has lost popularity because she only ever talks about herself.
When Louise is planning a ball for Matilda, Sir Arthur says the Earl will lend his ballroom. The Earl proposes but Louise can't wed another soldier, it gives her too much angst when they are fighting.
Matilda continues to behave badly.