From the moment of her mother’s death, Lucilla Marjoriebanks knows her vocation – a conviction based on the influence of morally uplifting novels and the ‘sublime confidence in herself is the first necessity to a woman on a mission’. The usurping of Dr. Marjoriebanks as master of his own table and the assuaging of Nancy, his formidable housekeeper, are but small steps in Lucilla’s scheme, for she intends nothing less than the transformation of Carlingford society. Lucilla’s ‘evenings’ become the talk fo this quiet country town: not only are they an essential source of gossip and entertainment for old friends and neighbours of Grange Lane, but they are also the setting for some of Lucilla’s most startling accomplishments. For it is on these occasions, under the watchful eye and guidance of this magnificent young woman, that reputations are made and lost and romances are pursued and undone . . .