Lucy Honeychurch is, like all proper young British ladies, compelled to tour Europe in the company of an older chaperone -- in this instance, her spinster cousin Charlotte Bartlett. While in Italy, the ladies make the acquaintance of a wide variety of personalities; the most fascinating -- at least in Lucy's eyes -- is free-spirited George Emerson. Aware that her cousin is becoming too familiar with Emerson, Charlotte demands that Lucy return to England posthaste. Lucy complacently settles for the tiresomely traditional courtship of nerdish Cecil Vyse -- and then Mr. Emerson moves into the neighborhood. Lucy now finds herself on the horns of a dilemma: Should she opt for a safe, proper marriage to Cecil, or the bohemian unpredictability of the charismatic Emerson?