Ambrose Ashley, Philip's cousin, guardian and god, married Rachel in Italy and died there. Jealous of his marriage, racked by suspicion at the wild hints in Ambrose's letters and grief-stricken by his death, Philip prepares to meet his cousin's widow with hatred in his heart.
But when Rachel comes to Cornwall, Philip sees what Ambrose saw, and falls disastrously in love - a love tormented by doubts as the contradictions in Rachel's behaviour grow. Is she the tragic angel of his dreams, or the mercenary poisoner of his nightmares? And how can Philip ever be certain which?