Grace Ashbrook knows she should not leave the ball to meet Simon in his family’s secluded gardens, but anticipation of his proposal impels her. When her brother finds them, she is fighting off Simon’s forceful advances. Publicly shamed and ruined, she is exiled to the country to live with her sister’s family, the Huxleys. Her dreams of being a wife and mother seem out of reach and her future feels hopeless.
Grace’s nightmares only increase after colliding with a bruised and bloodied gentleman, Hugh Kingman. This bare-knuckle boxer, who cares not what the ton thinks of him, has come to visit his cousin, Thomas Huxley. Grace, blind to her hypocrisy, wants nothing to do with this outcast. But her oppressive loneliness and Mr. Kingman’s desire to make her smile threaten that resolve. No matter how distant her longings for happiness seem, she finds herself reaching.
The prize fighter, no stranger to pain from his own afflicted past, recognizes that Miss Ashbrook is deeply wounded, and he hopes to befriend her. He patiently fights through her defenses in hopes of earning her trust. But those hard-won smiles and Grace’s genuine goodness and beauty might just lead him back to aspirations long since abandoned.
Hugh is determined to help Grace defeat her nightmares and dare to dream of a loving family of her own. Hugh assures her it is all within her reach. Perhaps Grace’s real opponent is not society but her own ingrained beliefs. After all, a person cannot be ruined.