When Philip travels abroad to find his uncle and his new wife and finds them gone and the “house to let,” the man tells him Rachel is one of the most “impulsive” women he has ever known. She often out-spends her budget, and had a reputation (along with her lover) of being overly extravagant and racking up enormous debts. Once she arrives in England, Rachel focuses on changing the drapes in the house, adding carpets, and making the house more comfortable. She dabbles in brewing herbal teas and loves to take daily rides, sometimes too close to the edge of a cliff. Rachel yields to Philip outside of marriage, both to please him and because she enjoys it. When a lawyer questions her on whether her inheritance being reliant on her remaining a “widow” her entire life is troublesome to her, she tells him that “suits me just fine,” inferring that she has no desire to settle down ever again. She is as enigmatic with her emotions as Philip; he never knows from day to day whether she will respond to him with enthusiasm or hold him at a distance due to her disapproval over his actions. She is private, and drops occasional hints about her past (“I lost a child”) but hardly ever elaborates on them. She is insulted when he tries to give her money, because she does not want to be seen as reliant on him for an income, and she refuses to be “owned” by anyone. She values her independence, freedom, and desire to be her own person too much to become his “paid in-law.” She is not much concerned with what other people say or feel about her, other than the person whose opinion matters most to her (Ambrose and Philip, for a time). Rachel is highly unconventional for the period, choosing and taking on lovers, spending her time with a gay man without judgment, and sleeping with Philip despite the damage it might do to her reputation. She knows that to wed him would lose her the inheritance, so she chooses not to. She also takes logical steps to protect herself from him, after he proves violent and temperamental. Some of the logical decisions others make for her, she reacts badly to, even though she knows they are the only way she can survive on a limited income – because it contradicts her desire to be self sufficient and find her own income. Rachel tends to act in quiet ways on what she feels, but she can become blunt when under stress (“I don’t feel safe with you anymore, I can’t be alone with you again”). She is often blindsided by Philip’s true intentions, misreading his affections as puppy love and not more serious (and dangerous). She doesn’t understand when he says he loves her that he intends to marry her; she just thinks he wants a “reward” (sex) for his gifts. She casts out a single idea about how she might earn a living (teaching other people Italian) if she is destitute.  

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To Rachel, appearances are everything. She chastises Philip for announcing their engagement in public without consulting her first and says she has never been so “shamed” in her life. A charming, polite, and mild-mannered woman, she easily makes people like her by sensing what they want and giving it to them. In the process, Rachel loses herself a little bit – she automatically assumes that he wants a sexual reward from her after he gives her beautiful jewels and yields to him in the night, with no intention of making it a permanent thing. Then she lets him have her again the next afternoon, though she seems to have no emotional connection to the act. She gives everyone in the house a gift for Christmas and, when she sees that she has caused strife between Philip and his lawyer, returns the jewels he gave her, to avoid a public scene. But she is somewhat mercenary, loves the “finest” things in love, is over-indulgent in her spending, and has no intention of letting the inheritance slip through her fingers, once she gets it.