Almost Heaven Summary & Study Guide

Judith McNaught
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Almost Heaven Summary & Study Guide Description

Almost Heaven Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught.

Almost Heaven is a novel by Judith McNaught. The novel centers on Elizabeth, a young aristocrat whose uncle has decided it is time for her to be married despite the disastrous debut that ruined her reputation in society. Elizabeth resists the idea of a loveless marriage, especially when she learns that one of the men who has accepted her uncle's offer of her hand in marriage is the very man who ruined her reputation in the first place. Almost Heaven is an often amusing romance full of misdirection and the sensuality that fans of Judith McNaught have come to expect.

Nearly two years ago, Elizabeth Cameron debuted and received more than a dozen marriage proposals. Elizabeth's brother Robert had accepted one of these proposals when Elizabeth attended a disastrous weekend party that would change her life forever. At this party, Elizabeth met Ian Thornton, an outsider who charmed his way into her heart and set her up for a scene that would ruin her reputation and end all her chances of marrying a titled gentleman. After an equally disastrous duel, Elizabeth's brother, Robert, disappeared. Elizabeth was left to pay off all his debts and fight to save their family home, Havenhurst. Elizabeth has also been left at the mercy of her uncle who has now decided it is time for Elizabeth to marry in order to provide him and his childless wife an heir.

Only three of Elizabeth's original fifteen suitors respond to her uncle's offer of her hand in marriage. Elizabeth is sent to visit each one for a week to allow the men a chance to decide if they still want to marry her. Elizabeth sets out to dissuade each of her suitors, preferring to remain single for the remainder of her life. The first man is something of a libertine, so Elizabeth pretends to be a religious prude. This play acting causes Sir Belhaven to send Elizabeth away after only one night. The next suitor, Lord Marchman, is an avid outdoorsman, so Elizabeth pretends to detest fishing. However, Marchman recalls that Elizabeth once professed a deep love of fishing, so he confronts her on her behavior. Elizabeth tells Marchman the truth and he agrees to refuse her hand. However, Marchman contacts Elizabeth's uncle and offers to marry her should Belhaven make an offer for her hand.

The third suitor Elizabeth must visit is Ian Thornton. Ian is staying at his family home in Scotland. The road to his home is so rough that Elizabeth's carriage cannot make the journey and she finds herself stranded at the Thornton cottage until her uncle is to send for her in a week's time. However, when Elizabeth arrives Ian immediately attempts to throw her out due to the tension that resulted from their previous meeting. Elizabeth and Lucinda, her companion, are willing to leave, but only after Elizabeth proves to Ian that he invited her to visit him, something that turns out to have been a mistake made by Ian's secretary. Realizing the mistake is his fault, Ian relents and allows Elizabeth to stay.

It is rumored that Ian is the grandson of the Duke of Stanhope. The moment Lucinda sees him, she recognizes the family resemblance and decides that this is the man Elizabeth should marry. Lucinda begins to scheme to leave Elizabeth and Ian alone together so they can rekindle their romance. While sexual tension builds between Ian and Elizabeth, multiple misunderstandings stand between their ability to admit their true feelings for one another. However, when Elizabeth is called home to marry Belhaven, Lucinda makes sure that Ian learns the truth about Elizabeth. When Ian learns of Elizabeth's ruined reputation and her poverty, he decides he must marry her. In order to do this, Ian is forced to forgive his grandfather for disowning his father for marrying below himself and accepting the title of Marques of Kensington.

With his new title and his grandfather at his side, Ian is able to salvage Elizabeth's reputation. Ian arranges a marriage contract with Elizabeth's uncle and becomes betrothed to her. Elizabeth and Ian work out a contract of their own in which Ian agrees to allow Elizabeth to care for her family home, Havenhurst, any way she should see fit. After their wedding, Elizabeth and Ian settle into blissful marriage. One afternoon while Elizabeth is at Havenhurst, her brother shows up. Robert convinces Elizabeth that Ian had several men force Robert aboard one of Ian's ships and then arranged for him to work in a mine. During his time in the mine, Robert was savagely beaten and he has scars to prove it. Elizabeth sees these scars and agrees to run away with Robert.

Elizabeth pawns the jewels that Ian has bought for her in order to use the money to pay for she and Robert to take a ship to the colonies in America. While waiting for a ship, Elizabeth sees a newspaper and learns that Ian is on trial for her murder and the murder of her brother, Robert. Elizabeth confronts Robert and learns that Ian put Robert on the ship because Robert tried to kill him on numerous occasions. The beating was the result of Robert's own dishonesty and had nothing to do with Ian. Elizabeth gives Robert the money to begin a new life and then rushes back to London to save Ian. Elizabeth gives testimony making it appear as though she is a simple wife who ran off on a whim. Ian is acquitted; however, Ian is so hurt by Elizabeth's betrayal that he refuses to take her back. Ian files for divorce.

Elizabeth refuses to allow Ian to divorce her. Elizabeth waits months for Ian to change his mind, but when she learns that a lawyer is trying to serve divorce papers on her, she decides to leave town. Elizabeth goes to Scotland to wait for Ian to remember his love for her. Eventually Ian comes around and forgives Elizabeth. Ian and Elizabeth go on to have two children and a happy marriage.

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