Eighteen year old Joanna allows Lionel, the benefactor with whom she lives, to arrange a marriage to his adopted son, Gabriel, with whom she is in love. A virgin, Joanna is unprepared for the consummation of her marriage to her experienced, older husband. Gabriel's passion hurts and frightens her and she's unable to respond to him. Two years after the honeymoon, Gabriel has had enough. He informs Joanna and Lionel that he's through playing house. Lionel gives him an ultimatum--work out the marriage or leave home forever. Staying with Joanna is a sacrifice no man should have to make, he says as a biting exit line. Joanna stays on as mistress of the house. Gabriel never divorces her, though, and returns two years later to settle Lionel's affairs after his unexpected death. Joanna asks for a divorce but the terms of Lionel's will dictate that she and Gabriel live as man and wife for a year or she doesn't inherit. She has no income and therefore no choice. She's too afraid of being hurt again to admit she still loves Gabriel. Plus her gold-digging stepmother, Cynthia, is doing all she can to seduce him herself, while a handsome stranger arrives and takes an interest in Joanna.