When tragedy suddenly strikes the Summers family, they have no choice but adapt to the situation. They have lost a beloved husband and father. Now Mrs. Summers and her four daughters (Sarah, Emily, Viola, and Georgiana) face the cruel reality of penury. What are five genteel females to do? Help comes in the form of Miss Fran Stirling, a former lady’s maid who once served Mrs. Summers. She suggests that the Summers’s women let out the rooms of Sea View, the great house where they live in Sidmouth. The unwell Mrs. Summers and her daughter Viola initially balk at the idea, finding it to be beneath their dignity.