When laid back American scholar Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhart) discovers a collection of love letters between two prominent Victorian poets, he recognises that he's on to a big literary find. Enlisting the help of sceptical British academic Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow), the two embark on a journey to uncover the truth surrounding the poets' forbidden love.
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Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow), a brilliant English academic given to doing things by the book, is researching the life and work of Victorian poet Christabel MaMotte (Jennifer Ehle). Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhart) is an upstart American scholar in London on a fellowship to study the great Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam). Ash, the poet laureate to Queen Victoria, is now best-known for a collection of rapturous, late-life poems dedicated to his wife that are going on centenary exhibition.
When Maud and Roland discover a cache of love letters that appear to be from Ash to LaMotte, they follow a trail of clues across England to the Continent, echoing the romantic journey of the impassioned couple over a century earlier.
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