The North family's comfortable life on the edge of a small country town is about to be disrupted by the arrival of a stranger.
Louise Lanier comes to England to act as a companion to old Mrs North over the summer.
Louise has her own personal reasons for wanting to absent herself from the small town of Amigny where she grew up.
On her return from England, Louise discovers the extent of her mother's social climbing on her behalf.
She has committed Louise to assisting the wife of her former lover Paul Devoisy at a charity fete.
Having been summoned once more to Mrs North's side, Louise has returned to her parents' home, resigned to making a provincial marriage.
But fate is to intervene in the form of a letter from England.
Ellen and Avery North were happy enough for Louise to return to them in order to collect her legacy from Avery's mother, but Louise is now outstaying her welcome and her presence in the house is causing tensions.
After Avery North and the young Frenchwoman, Louise Lanier, have been caught in an embrace by his wife and daughter, Ellen has told Louise that she must leave the house immediately and she is trusting to Avery to take the right course of action.
Avery has left the family home.
Unable to face the horrified reaction of his daughter after she witnessed him with Louise, he has told his wife that he will not be returning.
Avery is determined that divorce is the only possible course of action left to him.
Ellen is convinced that he is in love with the French girl.
Ellen has agreed to divorce Avery but is refusing to accept his money as alimony.
His son and daughter both continue to reject their father.
Louise's return to Amigny fails when her Catholic parents refuse to recognise her marriage to Avery.
Ellen is successfully building a new life as assistant manageress at Somerton Manor.