Joanna Turnbull's marriage to Talbot Showcroft is foundering in the wake of his emigration to the colonies, leaving her and their baby son in the care of her dictatorial father who encumbered her marriage with an unusual nuptial agreement. Her best friend Katie has been disowned by her father for taking up with a fugitive Scot fleeing the aftermath of the battle of Culloden. Joanna resolves the issues by moving to the Colonies, taking Katie and her husband with her. The book's title is appropriate. As the plot wraps around the issues of loyalty to family and personal principles, each of the characters faces his or her own choices of depravity or virtue, slavery or freedom.