Written by Barbara Cartland
Sent reluctantly to stay with her aunt so that her lustrous dark red hair and green gold-flecked eyes would not distract the attentions of her stepsister’s suitor, beautiful young Ilouka’s stagecoach is involved in a terrible accident in which two passengers are killed.
One is Ilouka’s old lady’s maid and chaperone, Hannah. The other is Lucille Ganymede, a glamorous dancer and understudy to Madame Vestris, the famous performer who has enchanted the theatre world of Covent Garden.
They are en route to perform at a private gentlemen’s party for the Earl of Lavenham at his glorious stately home, Lavenham Hall.
Lucille’s Manager, Mr. D’Arcy, is distraught. This engagement is his last hope if he is to avoid destitution and, since she is a gifted singer and dancer herself, Ilouka nervously agrees to perform in Lucille’s place.
But on arrival she takes an instant dislike to the Earl’s haughty demeanour and worse still she finds to her dismay that the behaviour of the guests at the ‘gentlemen’s party’ is far from gentlemanly.
Dancing to the gypsy music that conjures in her heart visions of her Hungarian ancestors and sublime snow-capped mountains, she enthrals the audience who clap and clap her inspired dancing.
And especially the handsome but aloof Earl.
It is only when he rescues Ilouka from the drunken attentions of a certain Lord Marlowe, does she realise that she is utterly and irrevocably in love with the Earl.