The duke has just returned wounded from the Napoleonic wars. He is weary, cynical, and very bored. Known as the worst rake in England, he finds he has no interest in upholding that distinction, when his friend, the Marquis of Somerset, proposes a bet: “Five thousand guineas says that seducing Miss Elise Edwards will cure your ennui.” Because his friend has just lost a packet to him, he agrees that the bet be posted in White’s famous Betting Book.
The following day, while walking in Green Park, he spies a mysterious young woman, veiled, and obviously grieving. A disembodied voice, sounding strangely like that of his late adjutant, informs him, “The jig is up. That is the girl you are going to marry!” He scoffs, but is nevertheless intrigued by something about the slight figure. He even sketches her and asks if he can be of assistance to her. She declines his offer kindly.
At the opera that evening, he is captivated by a beauty across the Opera Hall. He hears the same voice, saying the same thing. The marquis informs him that the woman in question is Miss Elise Edwards. When he meets her, he recognizes her voice as that of the woman in the park. Now she is surrounded by a surfeit of ex-fiance’s, one of them dangerously unbalanced. Ruisdell discovers an actual bond between them which renders him honor bound to protect her.
Thus begins a train of unstoppable events—dangerous, humorous, devilish, and amorous—that carry his life along at such a pace that the duke soon knows not whether he is on his head or his heels. And then there is that bet . . .