In 1866, Daniel Peterson and his family give up their comfortable life in London for an unseen farm on Banks Peninsula. Daniel plans to make a fortune growing grass-seed; until he does so, there can be no going back. But the realities of a remote hill country block are very different to the cosy imaginings of a clerk. The Petersons find themselves at the mercy of the land, the weather and their few neighbours - a motley, suspicious assortment of old whalers, escaped convicts, wary French settlers and true-blue Tory squatters. Even their own house has a secret to hide - that of its first inhabitant, the scandalous Etienne La Rochelle and his Maori lover. When Daniel's daughter Hester discovers La Rochelle's journal, it leads her on a journey of discovery - a path into a world of beauty, darkness and illicit love, which she may follow if she dares.