Widowed and penniless, Bella Gale Smith and her young daughter face a bleak future in 1865 New York City, until Zach Smith knocks on her door. She knows her late-husband’s estranged stepbrother as “the black sheep” of his family. The handsome bandleader hoped to visit his younger brother before joining his former musicians in Smith’s Cornet Band, a favorite of New York society before the war. Battle-weary from fighting on the Confederate side, Zach is certainly not looking to take on his brother’s family. But Bella and her daughter tag along, buying a ticket on a steamboat north to the opulent Catskill Mountain House, where his band is booked for the summer season.
Determined to keep out of Zach’s way, Bella is hired as a hotel maid, struggling to care for her daughter despite her grueling schedule and a tyrannical boss. The hotel manager, meanwhile, pressures Zach to update the band’s image and hire a female singer in the style of the popular Swedish Nightingale. It’s only when Zach overhears Bella singing a lullaby to her daughter that he realizes her clear soprano voice and good looks could be the answer to both their problems. A sweeping saga of passions and new ambitions at the beginnings of the Gilded Age in old New York.