Henrietta Louisa de Stuart (Heloise) is the cherished only child of her widower father Henri. Henri is an interior designer for the well to do of Paris. On the eve, of the French Revolution, Henri wants only to keep his daughter safe. While sympathetic to the reformers, he's careful not to commit himself politically. After the storm of the Bastille, and the establishment of the National Assembly, he decides to arrange an adavantageous marriage for Heloise. Though she is only fourteen, she is considered of age to marry. Henri chooses Olivier Vendenoir, a man of humble origins who took the opportunity to get educated, and is a deputy in the new National Assembly.
Olivier, very politically ambitious, is an insensitive and inattentive husband. Heloise is forced to grow up quickly. She suffers the loss of her honorary aunt Ismene while the two women are on a vacation out of the city. Heloise has to make the funeral arrangements. She is horrified when she learns from Henri that Ismene's husband, a bodyguard for King Louis had to flee the city. Heloise derives great comfort and support from her friend Charlotte. Charlotte's husband Charles Nordubois, is a peer of Olivier. Heloise is with Charlotte through a difficult labor and delivery, and acts as a second mother to Charlotte's children. Together the women watch and worry as the bread riots and violence rock the city of Paris.
Heloise is optimistic that the new regime will bring freedom and equality as they say it is their goal to do. Henri is much less sure, and as France goes to war with Austria, Holland, and then Britain, he works quietly to hide his assets and get ready for an escape from France.
Heloise is enjoying a gallop on her horse when she finds out that her husband has been arrested, and that she must flee immediately with only the clothes on her back. Henri gets her, Charlotte, and Charlotte's children onto a fishing boat to cross the English channel. Heloise survives the perilous journey, but loses Charlotte and her children along the way. Once in London, she makes her way to her distant cousin, Charles Lord Chelmsford and his wife Flora. The Chelmsfords,cousins again to the prominent Morland family of York, welcome her with open arms.
Believing her husband to be dead, Heloise finds true love with James Morland. She is plagued by worry though over the fate of Henri, Charlotte, and her family. As the French Reign of Terror reaches its climax, Heloise is forced to deal with its tragic impact on her life.
This report prepared by Susan Coffey