England is under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, and young Lucinda Carstairs, daughter of a Royalist family, is in a state of limbo as her betrothed, James Happington, is in exile in Europe with Charles Stuart. Lucinda unwittingly attracts the eye of their elderly neighbour, Ezekiel Watkins, a Puritan who acquired his estate through his support of Cromwell, and when her brother is seen on a secret visit home to raise money for the Royalist cause, Watkins uses this to blackmail her into marriage, and to her horror she finds that his puritanical mask hides a monster of depravity, and that her life with him is a living hell. But on the news that Charles has been restored to the throne after Cromwell's death, the loathsome Watkins dies of apoplexy and she is free to marry her beloved James - only to find he has acquired somewhat 'exotic' tastes whilst abroad, and things may have gone very much from bad to worse. The final straw comes when James takes to using Lucinda to entertain his associates and settle his gambling debts, and so she must at last try to find a way to freedom and independence...

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