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Elinor St. Ives fears she''ll suffer the same fate as did her mother, who died in childbirth. She''s determined never ever to marry. Elinor''s Uncle Gus believes it''s his solemn duty to see her wed. As for her desire to teach poor children their letters, he schemes to thwart any such notion. When he unexpectedly relents, Elinor is ecstatic. But once in Axbridge, her euphoria rapidly fades. The poverty level is so daunting she''ll need to work harder than anticipated to make a success of her school. Gideon Holcombe, by nature reclusive, considers himself a poor excuse as a clergyman. He wishes he could respond with more warmth to troubled members of his flock. When Elinor and Gideon meet, both feel a powerful attraction that plagues them throughout their stormy relationship. Gradually they come to respect each other, then fall deeply in love. Yet both agree marriage is too risky.