John, a second son, is destined for a life in the army, a prospect he dreads. His older brother, Spencer, has spent years crowing about how he plans to run things when he becomes head of the Trewbridge family. Now the lady John loves has become affianced to Spencer. John is second best again.
Marguerite Ninian has been crippled from birth. She has no prospects unless working as a drudge for her aunt could be called 'prospects.'
When John and Marguerite meet, fur flies. John, unhappy and disillusioned, advises Marguerite that instead of feeling sorry for herself, she should remember the injured soldiers who have had limbs amputated. Not an auspicious beginning.
Then the Marchioness of Trewbridge tosses John a lifeline and thanks to John's suggestion, the Marchioness also offers Marguerite real prospects.
Cautiously John and Marguerite feel their way towards the future until Spencer implodes and smashes the family apart.