Alice Bloom is 19, a pretty, smart fishmonger on the streets of London, circa 1900. She has a secret crush one of her patrons, Darnell Haversham, a handsome bachelor, who lives in a Mayfield townhouse not far from her stand. Alas, her infatuation is hopeless, as he is a gentleman, and heir to a fortune, so long as he does not marry before 40. She is thrilled when he proposes that she become his mistress. He makes an attractive offer: she will live in his house as his "ward" and he will have her educated as a young lady; when she is 21, he will set her up in a business of her own. She readily assents.
This draws Alice into the murky world of Edwardian sexuality, the era of Oscar Wilde and Lady Diana Manners, where public propriety is the rule, but erotic adventure abounds in private. Innocent, but curious and clever, Alice negotiates the fine line between naivete and sophistication, becoming part of her lover's secret erotic society, where all fetishes and sensual pleasures are allowed.