Lively Leonora Cressy and her school friend, Isobel, have sworn never to fall in love. They prefer learning and books to men and scorn other girls whose heads are full of storybook romance. But Leonora is suddenly plucked from the safety of her all girls' school and thrown into an adventure that forces her to reconsider her childhood vows.
Returning home to meet the new stepfather who has taken her beloved father's role as protector and provider, Leonora has two fateful encounters – one with an arrogant gentleman in a carriage, and one with a suave but appealing foreigner, Señor de Guarda.
Excited and angered in equal parts, Leonora is shocked to discover that her sweet Mama has married a man that she cannot admire. Horrified when he announces that he has arranged her marriage to a wealthy but unknown man, Lord Merton, she swaps the comfort of home for a passage on a cargo ship headed for Brazil, and her friend Isobel.
As the long voyage begins, Leonora congratulates herself on successfully evading Lord Merton and a loveless marriage. But upon meeting mysterious, but seemingly protective Mr Chandos, and faced with the passionate attentions of Señor de Guarda she is confused. Both men hold secrets that could ruin her reputation, but only one stirs her heart and soul.
Alone apart from her faithful servant, Finny, and unsure of where to place her trust, Leonora realises that she has done the one thing that she swore never to do – fall in love. As Brazil grows ever nearer she has important decisions to make that will change her life, and those close to her, forever.