Passion and poetry: two love stories intertwine - a true historical one and an imagined contemporary one, both intimately connected with Emily Dickinson's life.
In 1881 a young married couple, Mabel and David Todd, arrive in stuffy Amherst, Massachusetts. He will take up a post at Amherst College; she will embark on an affair that rocks the town. Emily Dickinson's brother is the College's Treasurer, Austin Dickinson, a respected citizen of the town and a married man with three children. Austin's sister Emily lives as a recluse in the house next-door to Austin. Over the months that follow the Todds' arrival, Austin falls passionately in love with Mabel, and she with him.
In the present day, Alice Dickinson, 24 years old, seeks to escape her copy-writing job and make a living as a screenwriter. She takes a short holiday to Amherst to research a screenplay on a story that has fascinated her since college days, where a love of Emily Dickinson's poems was triggered by the coincidence of her own surname.The story is the illicit love affair between Austin Dickinson and Mabel Todd.
As she researches one love affair taking place under the watchful eye of Emily Dickinson, Alice embarks on a passionate liaison of her own, and the novel interweaves the stories of these two loves, illuminating both past and present in the process.