From Cape Cod, a setting with some of its freshness intact--a dynastic saga beginning in the antebellum era of the clipper ships, when old Capt. Elijah Merrick, town leader, loses his fortune and his family's social position along with it. His grandson Kingsley, scorned by the fancier branches of the family in a town ruled by the sea-captain-ocracy, grimly fights his way to a new fortune in coaching. He hopes that the glossier branches of the family will now accept him as their own, but his determination to rub the old captains' noses in the new America--railroads, textile mills, and Jacksonian democracy--does not go down too well with Julia, the cousin he marries. A onetime aspirant to Boston Brahminhood, Julia marries Kingsley for his money (her dad has lost his) and though she loves him in her way, she is too cultured, too much of a social-climber, and--worst of all--too frigid for him. (Anachronistically, the characters chat about this sexual problem at length and in detail.) When Kingsley loses his fortune, just like his granddad, his daughter Augusta must choose between marrying the man she loves and marrying someone who can support Julia in the style to which she has become accustomed. Three tolerable generations of rags to riches to rags, from a woman's point of view--tears and Cape cranberries with lots of sugar.