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Wilful sixteen-year-old Isabelle Saylor Broughton is one of the most eligible bachelorettes in Philadelphian Society, the heiress to a textile-factory fortune. However, the family business is being run by James Auden and his charismatic son, Nathaniel, after the tragic death of her father in a fire at the factory. Her relationship with her mother grows all the more strained, and in the summer of 1910, on her sixteenth birthday, Isabelle is as restless as ever, feeling stifled and bored.
When Nathaniel Auden takes a liking to her, his interest seems genuine and unmitigated. Their courtship fast ensues, and at the same time, a rootless, taciturn young man turns up at Handon Grange, and is soon employed as the stablemen. As Belle and Nathaniel become more serious, his true colours begin to show, and at the same time, Belle seeks solace in an unlikely companion -- Arthur Walker, the stableman.
As Nathaniel grows more and more hostile, and Belle's mother seems oblivious to his violence, she had no-one to turn to, but Arthur. When they develop feelings for each other, and Nathaniel catches on, he ensures that they will never see each other again. Will their love be defeated by separation, or will they find each other again in the most unlikely place?