Blackmail, murder and romance are among the ingredients of Hardy's first published novel, "Desperate Remedies", and in it he draws blithely on the 'sensation novel' perfected by Wilkie Collins. Several perceptive critics praised the author as a novelist with a future when "Desperate Remedies" appeared anonymously in 1871. In its depiction of country life and insight into psychology and sexuality it already bears the unmistakable imprint of Hardy's genius.
Cytherea has taken a position as lady's maid to the eccentric arch-intriguer Miss Aldclyffe. On discovering that the man she loves, Edward Springrove, is already engaged to his cousin, Cytherea comes under the influence of Miss Aldclyffe's fascinating, manipulative steward Manston.