The three Fratton children have experienced a number of setbacks in their young lives, and what should be a spot of joy – the wedding of the youngest Fratton, Isabel – serves as a reminder of everything they have lost. Isabel never knew her mother, who died two days after Isabel’s birth, and her siblings have only foggy memories of her.
Their father abandoned them to seek his fortune in California, leaving them with a spinster aunt whose main concern is the seaside art gallery she owns. When a strange man claiming to be the Frattons’ long-lost father reappears, Isabel is particularly overjoyed. But is the man who claims to be Jack Fratton really who he says that he is?
Isabel is a spoiled, self-indulgent young woman who matures little as the novel progresses. She lacks the ability to look beyond her own selfish needs, and her siblings and her milquetoast fiancé complain about her, yet indulge her every whim. Eldest daughter Olivia, herself a spinster, is caught up in Jack’s tales of California life and dreams of a life of her own – but leaving her siblings seems impossible. The plot is slight, the main character isn’t likable, and the “mystery” of Jack Fratton’s identity isn’t particularly interesting, so there’s not much to recommend this turn-of-the-20th-century tale.