The quarrel had begun many years before - in 1850 on a West Indian sugar plantation - but although Charles Martinez and Hanover Rudolph had been dead a long time, the resentment and grudges of that old enmity still separated the two most important families in Bristol. The Rudolphs and the Martinez disliked each other intensely - until the Michaelmas Ball of 1927. There, Jack Martinez, handsome roue and gambler, danced with spoilt, precocious Maude Rudolph and a spark was kindled. The two young lovers, scandalizing respectable Bristol, forced the families to unite and an uneasy truce was formed in time for their child to born. But there were others in the feuding families who were to be drawn into the subtle, confusing, and emotional bonding. For Maude had a brother, a tense, silent, moody man called Austen, who still couldn't forgive the Martinez family, even though he thought Jack's sister, Harriet, the loveliest and most gentle girl he had ever seen. As the families fused, blended in the most tragic and unexpected ways, so Austen and Harriet found themselves trapped in a complex union of passion, lies, and frustrated love.