Condemned by a childhood illness that deprives him of the ability to ever assume his place in the world as a man, Richard Trent, the only son of the late Lord Dempsey, grows up in the shadow of his lively younger sister Katherine Trent known to everyone as Kat.
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An attack at sea and the death of his sister leads Richard to engage in a desperate venture, one he hopes will save a ship and its crew. By assuming the guise of his sister, he convinces the brigands to take him hostage in exchange for the safe passage of the ship to New York where the ship’s captain will arrange for the payment of a ransom. Whilst the gamble succeeds, it also sets in motion a series of events that presents a boy whose pitiful lot in life had once made him a recluse with a choice that became more difficult to make the longer he deferred his final decision. Upon arriving in New York, rather than admitting to the deception he used to save the ship and its crew, he allows his Uncle and all he comes into contact with to believe he is in fact his sister.
Bit by bit Richard, who now is living as Lady Katherine Trent, or ‘Kat’ as she prefers to be called, blossoms in Colonial New York. With the assistance of her cousin, James Keating, a British Army officer and his fiancée, Miss Sarah Gray, Kat begins to fashion a new life for herself, one that is as unconventional and out of step with colonial society as is the manner she is living her life.
With the same adroitness that once saved a ship and its crew from certain doom, Kat is able to establish herself as an independent and successful businesswoman while maintaining the appearance of adhering to the social strictures and demands of New York society. This delicate balancing act is made even more precarious when war comes to New York and Kat finds, though she is the child of an English peer, her sympathies lie with the American yearning for freedom and independence, goals she, herself strives to secure in a world that events have turned upside down.