When Conway Fitzgibbon arrives at Fuchsia Lodge with his daughter Matilda, the headmistress Miss Wilcox couldn't be more delighted. The ladies' school is limited in numbers and eager for new pupils, particularly ones so finely dressed, and boasting a father who is 'quite the gentleman'. But as Christmas approaches, and Miss Wilcox inquires about arrangements for the holidays, she is in for a shock. Conway Fitzgibbon, like the address he left behind, does not exist. So who is Matilda? With Miss Wilcox unable to extract any information out of the girl, it falls to a local lawyer, Mr Ellin, and a young widow, Isabel Chalfont, to unravel the truth. What they discover is a tale that travels the highs and lows of nineteenth-century England, an investigation that changes all their lives forever.