More than seven years prior to the events in the novel, Anne Elliot falls in love with a handsome young naval officer named Frederick Wentworth, who is intelligent and ambitious, but poor. Sir Walter, Anne’s father and lord of the family estate of Kellynch, and her older sister Elizabeth are dissatisfied with her choice, maintaining that he is not distinguished enough for their family. Her older friend and mentor, Lady Russell, acting in place of Anne’s deceased mother, persuades her to break off the match.
Now, aged 27 and still unmarried, Anne re-encounters her former fiancé when his sister and brother-in-law, the Crofts, take out a lease on Kellynch. Wentworth, now a captain, is wealthy from wartime victories in the Royal Navy and from prize-money for capturing enemy ships. However, he has not forgiven Anne for her rejection of him.