Before Grace Melbury went away to school, she was in love with Giles Winterborne, a simple woodsman in the forests of Blackmoore Vale. But Grace's schooling has given her a taste for refinement, and upon her return she finds herself drawn to a dashing newcomer, Dr. Edred Fitzpiers. This romantic triangle is the focus of Thomas Hardy's novel of betrayal, disillusionment, and moral compromise. The story unfolds in a lavishly evoked landscape that becomes as central to the plot as any of the characters. In this tale, which Hardy regarded as his best story, the great Victorian novelist returns to his fictional setting of Wessex to explore a characteristic subject: sexual relationships in an unsophisticated society. He also addresses issues directly affecting rural England during the early nineteenth century, when traditional societies underwent pressure from a changing world. A splendid introduction to the physical and psychological world of Wessex, The Woodlanders is also an intriguing forerunner of Hardy's later masterpieces.