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As the story begins, title character Grace Ingalis is a young woman with a middle-class socialite's upbringing who decides to marry a well-off young businessman she met mere weeks before on a winter sail to the West Indies. But intrigue is brewing as her married (and quite jealous) older sister Lydia is feeling left out, and a religious awakening awaits Grace. The story is reminiscent of Edith Wharton, who was a family friend, by way of Hall's art critic husband, Mr. Brownell.