For Katharine Stowerton, saving Bocton, the ancient Kentish home of her ancestors, from falling into the rapacious hands of a railway company is the most important thing in the world. When she realises her Uncle Robert intends to sell it, she spurs on his younger brother, her own feckless father Alfred, to re-open The Case - a long-running and costly lawsuit which claims an equal share in Bocton and its lands for every surviving male Stowerton under the ancient custom of gavelkind. Ever a quarrelsome and litigious family, Stowertons all over the world rally to the summons.
From Australia comes Joseph, still nursing a grudge against Robert for depriving him of victory in the family game over thirty years before. Roguish and unprincipled Albert arrives from the South of France, with his liquid-eyed and equally unscrupulous son Louis in tow, while from Baghdad comes jolly Aunt Mabel, widow of another brother, George, to safeguard the interests of her son. The family feud explodes once more - but it is the arrival of her cousin Luke, representing his dour mining magnate father Jeremiah, now living in America, that turns Katharine's world upside down. By now accustomed to a place high on the matrimonial shelf, she cannot believe that Luke is actually paying court to her, with a liveliness and determination that secretly delight her. But she makes it dauntingly plain that for her Bocton and its interests must always come first and Luke begins to despair. How can he turn bluestocking Katharine, with all her fierce and passionate love for the old house, into his own sweet Katie May - the girl he senses she is at heart?
Family secrets, jealousy and the obsessive lure of silver open up a gulf of misunderstanding between Luke and Katharine, as the fast-moving action sweeps to the colourful boom town of Leadville, Colorado. The heritage of the past clashes head on with the material desires of the late Victorian age. Yet, with the solving of a centuries-old enigma as the family feud over the ownership of Bocton is settled, there may be hope. Can the gulf be bridged or is it too late for the romantic wooing of Katie May?