Oppenheim was famous for his hundreds of spy and espionage novels. This is not one of them. It’s billed as a novel of social intrigue. It’s a story of revenge without violence and moves quickly. It also reads like a romance novel.
Lord Henry Chatfield and his family are riding through central Italy when the car breaks down in Pellini. His daughter Monica is intrigued by a young Englishman named Francis taking his vows before disappearing into a monastery. She tries to use her feminine wiles to convince him not to shut himself away. She fails.
Three years later Sir Stephen the Chatfield family lawyer says he discovered that Henry’s brother married an Italian woman and that means the entire estate goes to their son Francis. Sir Stephen found him in a monastery and he’s on his way to England. No surprise that the son is Francis.
The family is afraid they’re broke. Francis surprises them by saying they can live in a country home and will receive a nice bit of change per year to live on. Henry is a spendthrift and son Eustace is a gambler and completely irresponsible. Now everyone is shocked that Francis asks Eustace to introduce him into the Bohemian life in London.
Francis goes on a tear with girls from musical comedies and on a wild spending spree. He covers the debts Eustace keeps running up with a moneylender who used to be in the monastery. He cancels all contributions to charity but then makes a secret arrangement to keep them going. He buys a stable and some race horses and wants to purchase a yacht. The family fortunes are fast disappearing.
Through it all Monica tries her best to get him involved with her. He successfully fights off temptation. He continues to spend money on old manuscripts and gives his librarian a raise. That’s only good if he doesn’t tell anyone. Eustace’s debts continue to rise by the thousands and now Monica is out a lot of money thanks to a horse race.
It’s finally revealed what Francis is really up to. Oppenheim’s espionage novels are his best. This isn’t a bad mainstream novel but is not for anyone looking for the spy stories that made Oppenheim one of the best selling authors of the early 20th century.