Emilie Seldon has been brought up by her father, John. John is a scientist and alchemist and has taught Emilile the scientific procedures and a lot about alchemy. In 1725 in the middle of an alchemy experiment to bring dead roses back to life, Emilie meets two men.
Thomas Shales is a widowed clergyman who has alienated John by his disregard of alchemy. He likes to conduct his own natural flora experiments.
Robert Aislabie is a merchant and adventurer who has come to Seldon manor to inquire about fire and how to protect his ships. John mistrusts him from the start and tells Emilie to have nothing to do with the man. She, of course, falls in lust and ignoring her father eventually winds up pregnant. Her father completely cuts her off and Emilie is married to Aislabie and goes to London to live.
Emilie has never been outside of her country manor and its environs. All of a sudden she is set down in the midst of chaotic London and expected to order around her servants. She is unsure and homesick. She has an insolent maid and an increasing distant husband. She has had to give up her experiments and misses her relationship with her father.
The historical aspects of the novel were fascinating and the alchemy part intriguing but Emilie's growing up and enlightment is what brings this novel life.
First Line: "In one of my earliest memories I walk behind my father to the furnace shed"