Alethea, the youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs Darcy, marries on the rebound and finds herself the wife of a man whose charming manners conceal a vicious nature. Unable to live with him any more, she disguises herself as Aloysius Hawkins, a young gentleman, and sets off to seek refuge with her sister, Camilla, who is presently in Venice. With her, also dressed as a man, goes Figgins, her redoubtable maid. But her flight across Europe proves more eventful than she bargained for, and her affairs take a dramatic and dangerous turn for the worse before she can reach Camilla. Chance and her musical talents take her into the world of Italian opera, while her encounter in the Alps with the aloof and difficult Titus Manningtree, in Italy to find a lost Titian painting, is to change her life, although not before fate has played a few more tricks on her.