Alexandra Benjamin's father, a London physician famed for teaching the deaf to speak, is dead. Intent on finding solace in her own worth, Alexandra journeys to Cairncross Castle, in the melancholy York countryside.
There, Alexandra meets Mrs. Penrith and Mr. Featherstone, the mysterious housekeeper and vaguely sinister butler who preside over the daily affairs of Cairncross Castle...and strikes an unusual bargain with John Damien Newell, the darkly seductive master of the house. Hired to be a governess to John Damien's simple-minded brother Samuel, who has not spoken a word since he was a child, Alexandra must first win Samuel's trust. It is a daunting task, but one in which she is determined to succeed.
Then the whispers start."You should leave here, Miss Benjamin. You don't know how cruel the master is." Crueler still are the secrets Cairncross Castle keeps. For Alexandra's predecessor is the infamous Ursula Pole, an evil seductress who cared for John Damien and Samuel when they were children--only to mysteriously vanish amidst chilling rumors of murder. Is it a ghost or a madwoman who now stalks the castle's midnight pasages, and who seems to command the hearts and minds of her grown charges? Is it too late to free Samuel from his tortured silence? And will John Damien be forever trapped betwteen the darkness in his soul and his hunger for tenderness he has never known?