Well-bred orphan Cristabel Swann tolerates her thankless teaching job - until her uncle dies unexpectedly. Arriving in London to claim her inheritance, Cristabel encounters something else entirely - a loutish naval captain who won all of the old man's property in an evening's gambling, leaving his niece nothing but debt! To his credit, Captain Chase recognizes her desperation and offers her a position as landlady of a boarding house in Kensington.
Cristabel is happy with her new situation and with the female tenants of the house. They are exceedingly well-dressed for working-class girls and have many admirers. Cristabel soon has a beau of her own - the dashing Lord Winstoke, who seems just a tad familiar, both in appearance and in attitude. Of course, Cristabel maintains propriety in every situation. But she cannot understand why the men she meets are so forward. Could it be the company she keeps?