The book begins with an abrupt change of scenery as Elizabeth Drummond, a sixteen year-old girl living under the oppressive rule of her father, is shipped from Scotland to Australia to meet her intended husband, Alexander Kinross. Within a day she is married to Kinross, a wealthy entrepeneur, whom she immediately realizes she will never love.
During his internal struggle with Elizabeth's lack of affection, Alexander continues a true love affair with Ruby Costevan, a witty, humorous former prostitute-turned-hotelkeeper. Because the whole town knows of the affair, it's not long before Elizabeth discovers the truth about Ruby. Ironically, Ruby & Elizabeth develop what becomes perhaps the most important relationship in the book and which endures throughout its course. The novel deals with complex family difficulties and the laborious relationship between Elizabeth and her older daughter Nell, and the rape and decline of her younger daughter Anna, yet manages to maintain a believable sense of hope & humor. The novel spans the main characters' adult lives, and is constructed through alternating 3rd-person points of view, allowing the reader inside the minds of each of the principals - Elizabeth, Alexander, their children, Ruby, and Ruby's son Lee Costevan - as well as other minor characters who help propel the plot.
This report prepared by Shelley Livaudais