The main plot revolves around the marriage choices of Alice Vavasor. Early in the novel, Alice asks the question "What should a woman do with her life?" -- a theme repeated in the dilemmas faced by other female characters in the novel.
d by no means avoided her noble relatives, nor did she at all avoid Alice Vavasor. When in London she was persevering in her visits to Queen Anne Street, though she considered herself, nobody knew why, not to be on speaking terms with Mr Vavasor. And she strove hard to produce an intimacy between Alice and her noble relatives--such an intimacy as that which she herself enjoyed;--an intimacy which gave her a footing in their houses but no footing in their hearts, or even in their habits. But all this Alice declined with as much consistency as she did those other struggles which her old cousin made on her behalf,--strong, never-flagging, but ever-failing efforts to induce the girl to go to such places of worship as Lady Macleod herself frequented.
A few words must be said as to Alice Vavasor's person; one fact also must be told, and then, I believe, I may start upon my story. As regards her character, I will leave it to be read in the story itself. The reader already knows that she appears upon the scene