James de Beauville, the eldest son of a second son, has a reputation as a nonpareil, and is a member of the sporting, or Corinthian, set. He is a noted top-sawyer, displays to advantage at Cribb’s boxing parlour, shoots with deadly accuracy at Manton’s range, and is held to be something of a rake.
James receives an urgent message from his mother to return home from London. His uncle, the ninth Marquis of St Ives has suffered a serious illness and died prematurely. He leaves three daughters. The St Ives estate is entailed to the male line, and it James who will inherit the title and the lands. Prepared for this eventuality, but not for the timing, James is at first reluctant to take on his new role. His task is made harder by the way that his uncle has provided for his girls. James is advised to make an advantageous marriage to save his inheritance.
Sophie and Alice Benningdale are dispatched to London by their parents to undertake a season. Twin daughters of a wealthy, man, the girls each will have a marriage portion of sixty thousand pounds. Mr. Benningdale wishes his girls to make an advantageous marriage. This responsibility appears to lie with Miss Alice Benningdale, the elder by 10 minutes. According to the tastes of the day she is considered to be a great beauty. Sophie is content for her sister to shine her down, and amuses herself by making sport of certain members of the ton.
The Benningdale twins strike up a friendship with the two eldest de Beauville sisters, also enjoying their first London season. Inevitably their paths will cross with that of the Marquis. Sophie takes an instant dislike to St Ives, and, hearing of his reputation in the petticoat line, determines to discourage his attentions to her sister.
The Marquis of St Ives is the first in a series of stories about the lives and loves of the de Beauville family. The family is an ancient one; an ancestor sailed from Normandy with William the Conqueror’s army and successfully fought the Saxons at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Subsequent generations of this de Beauville have been rewarded with lands, riches and, ultimately, the title of the Marquis of St Ives. These stories are set in Regency England in the early decades of the 1800s when the Prince Regent ruled in the stead of his father, Mad King George.