Beatrice Steel, eldest daughter of the formidable Simon Steel, has always been exceedingly possessive about her family home, Pine Hurst. She becomes intolerably domineering after her mother's untimely death, ruling over her three sisters and the servants with an iron hand. It is her youngest sister, Rosie, who most resents Beatrice's tyranny and the stifling austerity of her father, whose private life is as wretched and gloomy as his demeanor. Her father owns the house, and Beatrice fears that he might someday remarry, and another woman would supplant her as mistress of Pine Hurst. For Beatrice, no one could ever take the place of her prized possession, and her sisters are distressed that no man has so far shown any interest in marrying the indomitable Beatrice, thus distracting her from her unwholesome obsession. Then, unexpectedly, her father dies, and when the family meets for the reading of the will, nothing Beatrice hears matches her expectations. Revelations of indecent family history dismay the Steel daughters. Beatrice realizes that her security is threatened and that she must begin to plot to protect her position and her most precious possession.