In Colonial Virginia, Hannah Verner – once indentured servant, now the widow of a wealthy planter – shocks society by personally supervising her beloved plantation, Malvern. Learning that her husband, who was killed in a mysterious accident, has left the place heavily mortgaged to arrogant, enigmatic Courteney Wayne, she determines to free herself from his debt. But she cannot free herself from her own attraction to Courteney, for he has ignited the warm passion she has suppressed for too long. Their joyously abandoned affair leaves her vulnerable – and she is shattered when she learns that Courteney might have engineered her husband's death as part of his scheme to possess Malvern.
Heartsick, she sails for France, where her daughter, Michele, has been pursuing her own dreams in the famous ballet school of Arnaud Deampierre. Dazzled and inspired by the charismatic master, Michele triumphs at her debut – even catching the eye of King Louis himself. But success is a costly prize, as she discovers when her lover, handsome Scottish aristocrat Ian MacLeven, proposes marriage – under one condition: As lady of MacLeven Castle, she must give up the ballet for which she has worked so long. And yet the lure of the theater is so powerful – with its glamour, its promise of stardom, and the mesmerizing attraction of the master, Deampierre himself.