New Zealand, 1921. Bright, feisty, and pretty, 16-year-old Lottie O’Brien lives with her troubled family in an impoverished part of Wellington. Life at home is hard for Lottie, her younger sister Bella and brother Jack – their father has returned from the war a mental and physical invalid, for whom their mother has neither sympathy nor affection.
Ambitious Lottie dreams of a better life and is befriended by her class teacher, Madeleine Carson, who introduces Lottie to her affluent family. At first, Lottie resists becoming involved with the glamorous Carsons, but she is gradually drawn into their world – and in particular that of Madeleine’s handsome brother, Hugh. Her life is soon transformed, but at what cost?