Seventeen-year-old Will is the sort of young man nice Victorian girls were warned against. He drinks, gambles, and enjoys the company of ladies of questionable virtue—at least, as much as he enjoys anything. Will hates everyone and everything, with the possible exception of Jem, and even that's in some doubt. Charlotte despairs of keeping him alive past the age of nineteen. When he finds himself oddly drawn to Tessa, his friends begin to hope that the Downworlder girl will prove Will's unlikely salvation—but as Tessa grows closer to the bleak secret that makes his life a prison, danger threatens to destroy them both if she ever finds out the truth.