Last Updated September 5, 2023.
In The Conscious Lovers by Richard Steele, two couples attempt to marry the person they truly love despite parental opposition and misunderstandings.
Bevil is in love with Indiana, who lost her father and then the rest of her family during a trip. He's paying her bills and waiting for his father to agree that he can marry her; his father doesn't want him to marry a woman with an unknown background and no family. He wants Bevil to marry Lucinda Sealand. Mr. Sealand isn't so sure about the match anymore, though, because he knows about Indiana and believes that Bevil is intending to keep her as his mistress.
Bevil and Lucinda are engaged; they both agree that they don't want to be married. He has actually given her permission to break off the engagement later. Bevil's friend Myrtle wants to marry Lucinda. Lucinda is in danger of marrying another man, Cimberton, who is wealthy and eccentric, if her marriage with Bevil ends.
At one point, Myrtle is so confused and concerned that he accuses Bervil of being less-than-honest and perhaps preventing Lucinda and Myrtle from being together. Bevil gets upset for a moment but wisdom prevails and he shows him a letter from Lucinda where she expresses gratitude for Bevil's permission to end the engagement. The two continue to try to thwart the ambitions of Mr. Sealand and Cimberton. Myrtle even disguises himself as Cimberton's relative.
When Mr. Sealand goes to visit Indiana and find out the truth of her relationship with Bevil, he discovers that she's his lost daughter. He changed his name in the past to escape certain troubles. He's happy to have found her and their relationship is confirmed by her aunt. He agrees to let her marry Bevil and to split his estate between Indiana and Lucinda. Cimberton doesn't want to marry Lucinda if she's only getting half the estate; Bevil requests that Myrtle and Lucinda be allowed to marry and Mr. Sealand agrees.