Lillianna Freeman, nineteen, lived in Florence, Alabama with her soft spoken mother and taciturn father. While the rest of her friends were courting and announcing engagements, she preferred to read in front of her bedroom window or go on adventures with her childhood friend, Alexander. She had no idea that he had loved her...but her neighbor, Sarah Jane, did, and she was determined to have Xander for herself. When he escorts Lillie to a party at Sarah Janes house, a plan is set in motion to disgrace Lillie, a plan that goes awry and creates a scandal. Lillies angry father sends her to New Orleans to be hidden away in the home of a cruel aunt, and Alexander flees her memory by going to work with his uncle in Natchez, Mississippi.Months, Lillie is allowed a bit of freedom by her strict aunt; she is allowed to shop for food in the city. A lively piano tune draws Lillie away from the safety of the market and toward the not-as-respectable French Quarter, where she is lost until she is rescued from would-be mugger by Celeste LaBelle, the well-known owner of a quadroon ballroom and pleasure house. The rescue comes at a price, however; when Aunt Dorcas sees Lillie getting out of Celestes carriage, her abusive punishment drives Lillie back to the ballroom and Celeste for sanctuary. Celeste allows her to live at the house and keep the books, and this is where Alexander finds her again while he is in New Orleans doing business. This time his feelings are clear, and Lillie no longer sees him as her boyhood friend, but as a man who stirs feelings in her she hardly recognizes.The love affair between Xander and Lillie blooms, and when Xanders business nears an end, he urges Lillie to go with him back to Mississippi. Lillie is torn, and she is still afraid of what his parents might think, given the scandal they had both had to escape. However, when Lillies friend Delilah is raped and Lilie confronts her attacker in anger, it becomes clear that Lillie will have no choice but to leave New Orleans, a decision that eventually brings her closer to Xander and to the secrets of her own past that she never knew existed.