The novel belongs to a genre that became very popular during that era. Known as “sensation novels” they can probably be equated to today's pulp fiction. It was received with huge enthusiasm by readers and most critics of the day and the central theme of “accidental bigamy” was a popular one. But the author Mary Elizabeth Braddon took it to new heights, introducing several intriguing twists and turns to the plot. In fact the novel was so successful that it allowed the author to become financially independent for the rest of her life and its publisher to purchase a villa, which he christened Audley Lodge, with the profits gained from sales of this Victorian bestseller!
In the story, the young, enchanting, doll like Lucy Graham marries a wealthy old widower, Sir Michael Audley. Not much is known about Lucy by people in the village, except that she was till recently employed as a governess. The couple enjoys a pleasant life together, with every comfort and luxury. Things take a turn when Sir Michael's nephew and heir Robert Audley arrives with news of dear friend of his George Talboys. Talboys who had left England to seek his fortune gold prospecting in Australia is now suffering from a mental breakdown following the apparent death/disappearance of his wife whom he left behind.