A bride and groom marry in haste, despite the groom's family's attempts to break things off. Arthur Curtis is the son of a baronet, Sir John Curtis; whereas Nancy Bates is the daughter of a shabby old tax collector. They are both too much in love to understand how much the differences in class and manners will hamper them going forward - especially given Nancy's violent temper.
A second love story is in the background: Arthur's friend Lewis Durant is in love with Arthur's sister Lucy, but believes her parents will never consent - even though their places in the social order are not nearly so dissimilar as those of Arthur and Nancy.
Biographical and other notes
The village of "Underhayes" is based on the village of Ealing - much smaller at that time than it is today. Recently widowed, Margaret Oliphant moved from Scotland to Ealing in October 1861 to be near her publisher Henry Blackett and his wife Ellen, of whom she was very fond, and who had children near her children's ages. Her tiny house was one of the "villas" in Cambridge Villas, Chaucer Road*, near the Uxbridge Road. Her house was probably the model for Arthur and Nancy's little villa. (Mrs Oliphant lived in Ealing for four years before moving to Windsor in December 1865.)
*Chaucer Road may not have been named yet - Mrs Oliphant's street address was "Cambridge Villas, Uxbridge Road". Cambridge Villas is currently a "listed building", having architectural and/or historical significance.