Lysette Kersaint is bethrothed to Etienne Sagesse. He is an awful, crude man whom she does not want to marry. Her stepfather has bethrothed her to Etienne for a substantial sum of money. When she tells her stepfather she does not want to marry Etienne, he beats her severely.
She runs away, but is caught stealing a pirogue in the river by twins, Justin and Philippe Vallerand. They bring her home to their father, Max, a very powerful man in the New Orleans territory. He also happens to be the enemy of Etienne Sagesse, who had an affair with Max's wife. Max's wife was murdered, and her murderer was never found. It has been whispered (loudly) that Max himself murdered her in a jealous rage. Max quickly sees Lysette's arriving on his doorstep as the perfect way to get revenge. He plans to keep her long enough to "ruin" her so that Sagesse will not want to marry her, necessating a duel, at which point he will kill Sagesse.
Lysette's stepfather and Sagesse find out where she is staying and demand her return. She begs Max not to send her back. He claims she is sick and unable to leave his home. She gives Max a letter to mail to her cousin, asking for help, but Max does not send the letter. While she is waiting for a response from her cousin, she starts to fall in love with Max. Max is attracted to Lysette but is so bitter from the betrayal of his first wife that he fights his attraction.
Lysette gets sick and he nurses her back to health. Her family comes again to get her and she refuses to go and she is ruined now due to her continued association with Max. He duels Etienne over Lysette and wins but forfeits killing him. Then he comes home and tells Lysette he wants to marry her. They are wed shortly after, but memories of his first wife continue to haunt the household.
Meanwhile, there are all kinds of political maneuverings going on between the Governor and Successionists, and Max is courted by both sides. He disappears for hours at night, and Lysette doesn't know if it's to see his mistress, or conducting illegal business.
When Etienne is murdered, Max has no alibi and people think he did it. Lysette must prove Max didn't murder Etienne, and when they find out who the real murder is it's a down-to-the wire effort to save Max!
This story had two of my favorite things: a New Orleans setting (although we didn't see much of it) and a marriage of convenience. It had murder, politics, romance and a sweet storyline between Max and his children. I enjoyed watching Lysette grow confident in herself and the relationship that bloomed between her and Max was good.