Brothers by adoption, Charles and James were inseparable. James never resented living in his brother’s shadow; he was kinder than if they had been blood. Life was good, and nothing could come between them, until an urgent telegram brings James south where he meets the woman of his dreams. Unaware of Charles’s secret attachment to the Virginian beauty named Emmaline, James falls in love at first sight. Charles’s unexpected arrival with a three-carat wedding ring thwarts his dearest hope and places James in the impossible position as his brother’s best man. One year after Charles and Emmaline are wed, Civil War breaks out and Charles is amongst the first to enlist.
Serving side by side in Gettysburg, James witnesses Charles’s death. Emmaline’s complete mental breakdown at the news may be more dreadful for James to bear than the loss of his brother. When he returns from the war and finds her in the same catatonic state he was forced to leave her in two years earlier, he is ready to take any measure to bring her back from a mental grave. At her father’s urging, he agrees to marry and escort her to England as her legal guardian. Distancing her from the ever-present reminders of the war spurs his gamble on the dubious arrangement. For his part, the chance to be near her is worth any risk, even the fear she will hate him for it.
After four short weeks in England, Emmaline awakens to discover that she is married to her husband’s brother. James has had to deal with his disillusionment with life, the loss of his true love, and the death of his cherished brother. Now, with her sudden reappearance into the land of the living, he faces the greatest threat to his future happiness, Emmaline’s rejection. Emmaline confronts her own demons and is determined James should know the entire truth about her decision to marry Charles, the tragedies she faced during the war, and the guilty secret that led to her complete mental breakdown.
The following twelve hours will decide both their fates.