This early novel centers on the Atheling family, especially on the three young people Agnes, Marion, and Charlie. Each has a special gift: Agnes has genius as a writer, Marion has beauty, and Charlie will find his gift in the course of the story. The novel is told mostly from Agnes' point of view. She has written a novel and found a publisher; and on the heels of her book's modest success, she and Marion are invited into society, which leads to some amusing experiences.
Meanwhile Mr Atheling has inherited his aunt's house in the country, and finds the title challenged by an old enemy, Lord Winterbourne. When the family move to the country, more characters and story lines are introduced. Marion and Agnes each have a love story with complications.
Biographical and other notes
The novel is of course fictional, but the portion of the story dealing with Agnes's first novel was inspired by Margaret Oliphant's own experiences as a young writer, including her first shy entries into the insincere world of "society".
British publishing information
Periodical: Blackwood's Magazine June 1856 - June 1857