The trials of a mid-19th century gentlewoman as she becomes governess to the sprawling brood of a good-hearted (but unfortunately absent) mill owner and a beastly beauty running to plump. There'll be an attempted rape, a prison term and other degradations before she's rescued by True Love, in this run-of-the-dog-cart period romance. Amelia Belchamber, a lady to the tips of her gloves, and well educated, is plunged into poverty when her father commits suicide (after committing extortion). Nobly releasing her suitor Oliver from an engagement, and ticking off a predatory titled aunt, Amelia, under an assumed surname, undertakes to educate the girls of Mr. Hoggett in Lancashire. A Mr. Bethune, curiously well-dressed and dashing for a humble tutor, has charge of three boys, including crippled Albert, a monstrous little excrescence with the wiles of a Borgia. Amela wins over the affections of most of her charges, including a mentally deficient tot, whose extraordinary artistic talents will be most useful one day. But Mother Hoggett, languishing in silken luxury, attended often by Mr. Bethune, will train her beady eyes on Amelia. Then one terrifying night Amelia is assaulted by Mr. Bethune--a struggle witnessed by Mrs. Hoggett who just happened by, and Amelia is booted forth. It's in London that she'll land a post as housekeeper with brusque portrait painter Quentin Cartaret and love blooms. It will be Cartaret, together with a passel of good guys, including Hoggett and Oliver (who've been to America and back), who'll rally after poor Amelia is sent to prison for trumped-up charges of thievery. An agreeable enough romance, with a pleasant heroine and a satisfying comeuppance for the villains--and there's no particular effort made to rehabilitate little Albert with anachronistic psychotherapy! Period mores throughout.