Madeleine Sebine is an unfinished lady.
She fights. She gambles. She's even been known to go wenching with her twin brothers. And she is remarkably French, with some Italian and oh-so-fiery Irish thrown in for good measure.
After the death of her family, Madeleine is sent to live with her maternal Aunt, Lady Elizabeth Callahan of Callahan Manor. Lady Elizabeth's husband, Connor Callahan, is dead, and as there are no male relatives, the house stays with her until their daughter is wed. Also living with them is Lady Adelaine del Siorra, Madeleine's maternal grandmother. And they are none too pleased that Madeleine has grown up so wild.
See, her mother, Isabelle, who was Elizabeth's sister, died giving birth to Madeleine's younger brother, Philippe. And her father, Jacques Sebine, an Englishman of Norman descent, is an adviser to King Henry V. Though the Sebines fought with the Conqueror in 1066, they chose to go back to France, all the while swearing loyalty to the English crown. When Edward II had married Isabelle of France, Madeleine's foremother Magdalena came with her to England, bringing the Sebine clan (which she'd married into) with her. Though they maintain many French customs, they are relatively Anglicized, especially when Henry V, in order to curtail anti-French sentiment against the Sebines, arranged for Jacques to marry Irish and Italian Isabelle. Adelaine was Irish, her husband Andrea, was Italian.
But Isabelle died, leaving five children, only one of whom was a girl. Jacques, stricken by grief, threw himself into his work, leaving Madeleine to essentially be raised by her elder brothers. Nikolas taught her the ways of language and politics, history and science and mathematics, all those things a lady should not know. The twins, Charles and Edmond, taught her to gamble and to fight, to sing bawdy songs and tell ribald jokes. She can shoot a longbow like any good Englishman, and knock back a tankard with the rest of them.
What she cannot do is embroider or sing prettily, or name her Saints or dance gracefully. She cannot be a proper lady in a time when being proper, being rich, and being beautiful was all a lady needed to be successful in life.
But then the rest of her family died (except maybe Charles, who might have run off to become a pirate), and Madeleine was sent to live with her excessively proper Aunt and Grandmother. And her life changed. Because now she must learn to be a real woman, if not necessarily a proper one.