Not only has beautiful young Bettina Charlwood lost her beloved mother but, made all but destitute by her father's constant gambling, now she has to leave the French school her now-deceased Godmother had financed. Now death strikes once more as her chaperone dies on the ferry from to Dover — and Bettina is saved by an earnest young gentleman called Lord Eustace Veston.
Arriving home, she and her father are invited by the famous Duke of Alveston to accompany him on a trip to Egypt for the historic opening of the Suez Canal. Another surprise awaits when she finds her father has also invited the Duke's half brother, whom he hopes she will marry. And that half-brother is none other than her Good Samaritan, Lord Eustace.
But while Bettinna finds the Duke almost impossibly handsome and awe-inspiring, Eustace, by contrast reveals himself to be a mean-spirited 'do-gooder' — and something of a bully to boot. And despite Eustace's assumption that she will happily marry him, she soon finds the magnificence of the Duke hard to resist.