Lora is newly married to Wade Tyler, and has gone to live with him in his mother's home. Wade and Lora met when he was shot in the Civil War on the street right outside her father's house. Her father ran out to get him and was shot as well. Lora nursed Wade back to health, and Wade asked her to marry him. Wade had recently lost his first wife in a tragic accident and was lonely. In fact, that was why he joined the war as a soldier – he didn't care whether he lived or died after his beloved wife was dead. Lora was also lonely. Her mother had died some time ago, and she just recently lost her fiancé and her father in the war. Lora and Wade's marriage is, unfortunately, based on loneliness, not on love.
Once inside the big, gloomy house where they will live, Lora realizes she has no idea what she gotten herself into. Wade's mother Amanda is stern, with many rules, and acts as if she does not like Lora. Wade also has an unhappy child at home, eight-year-old Jemmy, by his first wife, Virginia. Lora feels compassion for Jemmy and doesn't understand why Wade and Amanda treat him with such little regard. Lora is also aghast at the way Amanda always gets her way, even if it means making herself sick until she gets it. Wade does not stand up to her, which only makes her selfishness stronger.
Lora is determined to get Jemmy a dog for Christmas because he is alone so much of the time, and a dog would make a world of difference in his life. However, Amanda has forbidden any dogs in the house. Amanda hates dogs because her disrespectful late husband used to have many dogs in the house, knowing that she was against that. On Christmas day Lora has managed to get a puppy for Jemmy, and Jemmy is delighted. However, Amanda tells Jemmy he cannot keep the puppy, and Wade not only says nothing, but leaves the room. Lora is disgusted with Wade's lack of spine, and distraught that no one seems to care about Jemmy's wellbeing. She follows Wade to the library and chides him for not standing up for Jemmy. Then they find out that Jemmy has run away from home. Later in the day, Wade unexpectedly stands up to his mother and tells her that Jemmy will keep the puppy. His mother in turn takes to her bed and won't get up. Then she starts having not only her maid wait on her hand and foot, but Wade as well.
Even though Lora thinks Amanda is impossible, she wants to help Wade continue to stand up to his mother. She also wants to help Jemmy become the happy child he should be. Lora is also concerned about Wade's meetings with members of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a group that says it is against the war, but Lora is unsure of its real motive. Also, there are rumors that Wade's first wife Virginia did not die by accident, but was killed or possibly committed suicide. Lora wants to find out the truth.
This report prepared by Crystal