Nell Sweeney, a young Irish-born governess in post-Civil War Boston, may not have much, but she does possess both a keen mind and a brave heart. As governess to the wealthy Hewitt family, she finds plenty of opportunities to use both - especially when the seamy side of society shows itself.
The lowborn Fallons come to Viola Hewitt with a desperate plea for help. Their wayward daughter, Bridget, a pretty young employee of Hewitt Mills and Dye Works, hasn’t been seen for days. Mrs. Fallon, unwilling to believe that Bridget would just run off without a word, fears that she’s come to a bad end - possibly at the hands of her ex-con lover. Viola, confined to a wheelchair, enlists Nell to locate the missing mill girl. Working with Viola’s black sheep son, Will, Nell uncovers a web of schemes and greed and dark obsession - and what she knows may just be the death of her.