The aristocratic Turvilles had always deplored an unfortunate connection with Trade through the marriage twenty years previously of the Baron’s brother with the daughter of a Yorkshire manufacturer.
Nevertheless, Eugenia, only child of this marriage is reluctantly invited to Lydeard Hall just before she is about to make her debut into London Society. Lady Turville has her reasons: Eugenia is not only an orphan but she is her grandfather’s sole heir and extremely wealthy. The connection with Trade and, no doubt rustic manners and accent, are to be deplored – but Lady Turville hopes that one of her two sons, Francis and Aubrey, may make an advantageous marriage with the girl.
Dominated by their mother, the two young men reluctantly agree to woo their cousin, even though they are convinced she will be plain – a “regular Yorkshire pudding”, as one of the puts it – as well as vulgar.
But even before her arrival, Eugenia accidentally becomes apprised of the family's scheme as well as their views of her, and mischievously resolves to fulfil their expectations. Lady Turville is soon ready to abandon her scheme but, perversely, her sons do not. A past love affair between their sister, Lucinda, with Sir Peter Martyn, a neighbour and friend, complicates the issue. But how is Eugenia to extricate herself from the situation in which she has been placed?