1611, after 10 years in the Orient, Celia Lamprey and her husband Paul Pindar have returned to England, bringing with them a legendary diamond despite the curse that surrounds it. An army of carpenters, gardeners and footmen have been summoned to restore Pindar's great house Bishopsgate to its former splendour, but all is not as it seems.
Celia is frail and the marriage childless. As they await the arrival of Celia's friend Annette from Venice, another woman - the alluring widow Frances Sydenham - becomes increasingly indispensable to the running of the household and the happiness of the inhabitants. But who is this strange woman, and what are her real motives?