Set in the mid-19th century, this turbulent historical saga concerns the star-crossed love affair of Nicholas le Grys, a roistering English nobleman, and his family's vivacious kitchen maid, Rose Snape. When Nicholas comes upon Rose being raped by Ned Taylor, the village smithy, he attacks and accidentally kills Taylor, an act for which he is banished from Castle Rundull. Rose and Nicholas temporarily settle in London, but honor compels him to wed Lady Cressida Amhurst after he unintentionally proposes to her while in his cups. Wishing to have Nicholas out of its sight, his family sends him and Cressida to New Zealand, on one of five shiploads of English emigrants who will begin to colonize that country. Desperate to follow Nicholas, and pregnant with his child, Rose marries dull, lower-class Daniel Putnam, with whom she too emigrates to New Zealand. There, Rose and Nicholas are irresistibly drawn together once more, and the jealousy between Rose and Cressida escalates into enmity. Meanwhile, the Maori natives rise in rebellion. Native New Zealander Worboys dramatically portrays the untamed beauty of her homeland, as well as its early dangers.