Following the sudden death of his rakish father, Seldon Burn unexpectedly inherits the title of Duke of Otterburn. Returning to the family estate, he swiftly discovers that the title is the only thing he has inherited – along with a mountain of his father's debts and nothing to pay them with.
A brave and proud soldier, nothing has prepared the new Duke for the devastation to the family coffers caused by his late father's love of lavish entertainment, Gaiety Girls and good living. Meeting with the family Solicitor, the Duke is horrified to discover the Ducal properties are crumbling, everything of value is entailed and even the racehorses have not been schooled properly.
Desperately seeking to rebuild the family fortune and honourably fulfil his duty of care to the old and infirm of the village, his cousin Edith, a sophisticated Socialite, offers a solution.
She suggests that he follows in the footsteps of many an impoverished English aristocrat and marries a wealthy American heiress – she even has a fitting bride in mind from her recent visit to New York.
With no viable alternative and a pressing demand for money, a wedding is hastily arranged – but will the English traditions of generations of the Burn's family be overshadowed by the razzle-dazzle of the Duke's mother-in-law to be, Mrs. Vandevilt, the renowned New York hostess?
Horrified at being married for his title and not love, the Duke is so angry that he barely considers the feelings of his young and vulnerable bride. Meanwhile, the lovely Magnolia Vandevilt, one of the richest heiresses in America, is equally disgusted and contemptuous of a man who is marrying her only for her money.
Joined together in holy matrimony, can this marriage of convenience ever be more than a disappointment and battleground as both parties dream of the love they might have had?