Miranda, a young girl whose mother has died and who lives in a world created by romantic family legends. As she grows older, she gets hints that her beloved Aunt Amy and Uncle Gabriel are not the romantic couple she has idolized, but two people with problems. At the age of eighteen, by which time she is married, she confronts the most realistic member of her family, Eva, who reveals the past through different eyes. At the end, she decides to find the truth beneath the illusions.
Eva Parrington, Miranda’s cousin, a plain woman who taught Latin and was involved in the women’s rights movement. She sees Amy as she is, unadorned by romantic stereotypes. Her forthright explanation is the trigger for Miranda’s search for truth.
Amy, the young wife of Gabriel who died of tuberculosis after leading a life of scandalous but intriguing behavior. Her portrait hangs in the hallway of the house, forever a memento to lost times.
Gabriel, Amy’s husband, an owner of racehorses. He is attached to the romanticized memory of Amy. He dies as an alcoholic, married unhappily for the second time.