Miss Phillipa (Pippa) Grey and her family smell of the shop. Gentle born Mrs. Grey married outside her sphere and has been rejected by society. Her husband, a very wealthy shipper, agonizes over that fact and wants his wife to succeed in introducing their daughter and son to society. Using his great wealth, he convinces an impoverished Viscount to lend a hand at easing the way. Viscount Allingham, a respected arbiter of fashion, feels he has no choice but to take the money. He meets the family and offers his advice to each member. Bertie, the son, hangs on his every word and follows his advice without hesitation. Mrs. Gray likes Allingham, follows his advice, and they all are embraced by the ton again. Only Pippa is belligerent and bent on doing the exact opposite. His request that she not wear red results in Pippa making an entire wardrobe of the color. The ton dubs her "The Crimson Lady." She also takes to being seen with the very people Allingham advises her not to associate with.
As the Grey's become enmeshed with society, Allingham reluctantly finds himself falling in love with Pippa. She will only think him a fortune hunter and he tries to deny his attraction. Pippa, in turn, cannot understand why she is so drawn to him and yet enjoys going against his wishes. This gets her in trouble since she frequently finds herself in company with the amoral Lady Granville and despicable Lord Seagrave. Even the Grey's son Bertie finds himself in a bit of trouble when falling in with bad company