When cautious Emma Roberts goes to France to carry out research into seventeenth century garden design, she finds a reliable diversion from her studies in her unlikely new friend Francoise Desnoyers, in whose beautiful house she is welcomed as a guest. She is not too dazzled to ignore the tensions that exist between Francoise and her formidable mother, or between Mme. Desnoyers and her other guests. London recedes into the background as life in France becomes more significant in every respect. It is not until the horrifying episode that puts an end to this fascination, that Emma is reconciled to her duller but safer life at home and to the compromises that she comes to accept.