Sophia Bellamy is about to enter into a marriage contract with the handsome and wealthy René Hasard to save her family from financial ruin. The Parliament of the Commonwealth revoked the last license for private printing from the family because their book, Wesson’s Guide to Paintings of the Time Before, clouded people’s minds and is now an illegal item. With twenty-six days left to pay his debts, Mr. Bellamy will lose the family’s estate since his son Tom doesn’t have the money or assets to inherit it. It is now up to Sophia to wed the son of a wealthy Parisian businesswoman to secure the funds to pay off her father’s debt and to fund Tom’s inheritance of the estate. Having met René just before their engagement party, she believes that he will be an agreeable match and she can continue her life as she pleases. Sophia spends her spare time rescuing her friends before Allemande’s Ministre of Security, Albert LeBlanc, can separate them from their heads. Her world is turned upside down when LeBlanc makes an appearance at her engagement party hours after her latest rescue of an entire family from the Sunken City before their scheduled executions. It turns out that LeBlanc is a distant cousin to Hasard but it isn’t long before she discovers that he has traced the Red Rook to the doors of Bellamy House, across the Channel Sea. A mystery or legend, the Red Rook leaves behind a red-tipped rook feather in place of Allemende’s prisoners. LeBlanc will keep the Hasard fortune and her family’s salvation in tact if she can supply him with information about the Red Rook. LeBlanc gives her one week.
Snooping though LeBlanc’s room one night, Sophia is unnerved when she discovers an unfinished letter that he is writing to René. In it he tells René that the capture of the Red Rook is of the utmost importance. He should glean any information he can from his current situation but shouldn’t attempt to rush into a sacrificial marriage to Sophia. Angry, she realizes that LeBlanc has suspected Tom for awhile. She also ponders if René suspects the truth about her. Leaving LeBlanc’s room through a window, she hears a sword being unsheathed . Turning in time to keep from being hit in the spine, she gets cut in her side. Dropping quickly, the sword cuts her rope in half and she crashes to the ground where she blacks out.
Sophia awakes only what seems like minutes later to find the sword-bearing man dead with a knife in his chest. Hearing the foxes, she takes the knife, grabs her bleeding side and makes her way back to Bellamy House. She enters through a secret door and descends into an underground room that Tom has dubbed his sanctuary. She collapses on a cot. Sophia later awakes to find herself covered by a thick blanket, something tight around her middle and a man with his back to her. When he speaks to her over his shoulder, Sophia is startled to learn that it is René. He seems so unlike the man she met at their engagement party. She is sure that René has discovered the truth about her. Sophia is having problems trying to figure out this very different René Hasard from the one she first met. This René seems to be very dangerous but offers to keep her secrets if she will keep his once they are married. René sutures her wound. He leans down and Sophia thinks and kind of hopes that he will kiss her. Before anything can happen, René passes out from the knockout powder that Sophia placed in his drink. She leaves him behind and wonders how she will deal with LeBlanc later that night at dinner.
Is Sophia Bellamy the Red Rook? Who is René Hasard? Can Sophia trust him or is he really conspiring with the enemy? Does Sophia save her father from debtor’s prison and find a way for Tom to inherit Bellamy House? Can the guillotine be stopped once again? Will technology make a revival in the world? What happens when Sophia discovers that she isn’t the only one harboring a secret?