(From A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light by David Donnie)
"The Deserted Woman", read in a translation by Ellen Marriage, is the story of young Baron Gaston de Nuel who at age 23 has been sent from Paris to provincial Normandy to recover his health. We never learn exactly what was wrong with him. The first third of this story is devoted to characterizing all the types of major and minor important figures who make up the gentry of Normandy. It is really well done, very visual, very convincing and at places just hilarious. Then the story goes into a formula romance. Our young Baron meets and falls in total love at first sight with a mysterious wealthy noble woman ten years older than him. Balzac is great at describing women and he is on fire here. There seems to be little slow getting to know you gradually falling in love stories in Balzac (or else where in the period literature). The baron basically only knows what she looks like and from thus he decides he wants to spend his life with her. She, however, is the deserted wife of an aristocrat who left her rich but unable to ever marry again or even in the milieu have a scandal free relationship.
Compressing a lot, they move to a villa on Lake Geneva and live there for nine years then something tragic happens that destroys their lives.
I enjoyed reading this story a lot and I am sure in 1832 it was considered quite daring.