Poppy Tilburn’s life has been one of heartache and difficulty. The only person who ever cared for her was her childhood friend, Marcus. But when they began to show an interest in one another that was decidedly not friendship, Poppy was confronted with the horrible truth of her birth and driven from home. Now, lady’s maid to a cruel young woman, Poppy finds herself visiting the Duke of Hollyton’s house party for the holidays—only to learn that the duke is actually her dear friend Marcus. But no matter her joy in seeing him again, she cannot forget that her first priority is to protect her dear friend from being polluted by the shame she has been painted with. For if a romance between them was out of the question before, it is so much worse now that he is a duke.
Told his childhood friend Poppy died in her youth, Marcus has pushed past the grief of losing her, surviving the past decade by focusing on duty, and duty alone. Never expecting to take up the mantle of duke, he nevertheless throws himself into the role, and has prepared for a life of stark responsibility. He certainly never expects to see his dear friend alive and well at his holiday house party—or that she’ll be almost immediately thrown out on her ear by her cruel employer.
But Marcus is not about to look a gift horse in the mouth: this is the ideal chance, after all, to convince Poppy to remain with him as family, for he cannot lose her again. Poppy, however, is as prideful as she’s ever been, and refuses to accept charity. And so he offers her the position of companion to his elderly aunt. But as the wintry days pass, and Marcus and Poppy find the romance between them that had sparked so long ago rekindle into something so much stronger, will he get a Twelfth Night miracle and convince her to stay for good?