The novel begins in 1929, when Matty and Daisy attend the wedding of Kit's older sister Polly. Kit and Daisy become enamoured with each other, and get closer during a holiday in France. Matty is also in love with Kit, and on the return journey to England she asks him to marry her. In dire need of money, Kit reluctantly accepts. Daisy is furious, and Kit is resentful of relying Matty's fortune.Trapped in a loveless marriage with Kit, Matty begins to focus on improving the garden, and becomes obsessed with the death of Kit's mother. Daisy's life begins to slowly fall apart, and Kit begins to realise that his selfishness could ruin his life.
This novel provides examples of:
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: Set in England among the landed gentry in 1929
- Good Is Not Soft: Robin, the kindly town doctor, has no problem standing up to Sir Rupert.
- Ill Girl: Matty, who has a heart condition.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Matty yearns to have a child, but can't because of her poor health.
- Love Triangle: Between Kit, Matty and Daisy.
- Meekness Is Weakness: Matty is viewed as weak and feeble because she's shy and quiet, and has trouble standing up for herself.
- Missing Mom: Kit's mother, who committed suicide when Kit was twelve.
- My Secret Pregnancy: Daisy conceals her pregnancy from Kit, and flees to France in order to hide from gossip.
- Not Good with People: Danny is blunt and abrupt to the point of extreme rudeness with other people, but he's the complete opposite with dogs and horses. It's implied that this is due to trauma from the horrors he witnessed during WWI.
- Parental Abandonment: Matty's parents died of dysentery when Matty was five.
- Preppy Name: Flora, Matilda and Polly.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Flora has to bend down to kiss Robin.
- Uptown Girl: Flora falls in love with Robin, the town doctor.