Elisabeth Lawson is getting ready to attend her betrothal ball at the governor’s palace in Williamsburg, Virginia. As the daughter of the Earl of Stirling, who is also the lieutenant governor of the Virginia Colony, she has lived a life of luxury. But even she is beginning to feel that war may be inevitable between the rebellious Independence Men and those loyal to Britain, like her father.
Elisabeth feels melancholy about her upcoming wedding to Miles Roth. Although handsome and rich, Miles is inattentive and a gambler. Elisabeth’s father has arranged her marriage, which is a matter of business, not love.
Noble Rynallt is a wealthy lord from Wales and a strong believer in the cause of liberty. Patrick Henry prompts Noble to find a way to be invited to the governor’s ball so he may spy on the Tories. He finds his invitation through his relationship to Miles Roth, his cousin. Miles gladly agrees to allow Noble to escort Elisabeth to her betrothal ball so he can come late.
Elisabeth hides her dismay and is shocked that Miles would let her be escorted by an Independence Man and a Presbyterian, since her father is a Tory and an Episcopalian. The two make quite a stir at the ball, as much for their striking appearances as for the differences in their politics.
Miles arrives after a long dice game. Noble is embarrassed for Elisabeth as she seems kind and genteel, while his cousin appears intoxicated. Elisabeth begins to despair about her upcoming nuptials. Her friend Lady Cressida is enamored with Noble and makes plans to pay him a call in the coming week.
As her wedding day approaches, Elisabeth prays her mother, Priscilla, will return from England in time to attend. Lord Stirling sent his wife away because of her tendency to write inflammatory letters and articles for the newspaper in favor of the Independence Men. He calls his wife insane for her political views. He also scolds Elisabeth for allowing Noble to attend her at the ball, even though she had no say in the matter.
Elisabeth finds solace with her friend Lady Charlotte, the governor’s wife. After a splendid afternoon in her garden, Lady Charlotte slips Elisabeth a letter and instructs her not to read it until she is home. She is nearly crushed between a cart and a carriage in the street until Noble lifts her to his horse. They ride to her house where she discovers she has lost her hat and the letter.
Later, Noble learns that Patrick Henry found Elisabeth’s letter. He has read it and discovered that the governor, his family and Elisabeth’s father, are set to flee Williamsburg the following night. Although her father has not asked Elisabeth to come with them, Lady Charlotte wanted Elisabeth to know of the plans so she could meet them at midnight. Noble hopes that Miles will do his duty and take care of Elisabeth, if she remains behind.
The following night at midnight, ruffians invade Lord Stirling’s house. Elisabeth and her maids are left without aid as the strangers break the windows to her house, steal and destroy items. Through their drunken revelry, she discovers her father has fled.
Miles arrives to survey the damage, but promptly leaves her alone in the house without giving assurance of his return. Noble pays a visit and is shocked to learn that his cousin has abandoned her. He offers her sanctuary at his house while she waits for her mother’s ship to come from England. As he is a known Independence Man, Elisabeth’s presence is kept hidden.
Noble’s housekeeper is thrilled to have a beautiful young woman as a guest. She hopes Elisabeth’s presence will help ease Noble’s grief at losing his beloved sister two years earlier. As the days progress, Elisabeth and Noble find themselves attracted to each other, but fight the connection as they come from different sides of the political coin. Noble attempts to make his cousin fulfill his betrothal contract, but Miles refuses, leaving Elisabeth with no future course, except to try and escape to her father’s ship.
Elisabeth has other plans. Convinced she can no longer intrude on Noble’s generosity, she assumes her middle name, Liberty, and treks throughout Williamsburg looking for work. An excellent maker of lace, she manages to find employment at the Raleigh, an inn and Patriot meeting place. She is given room and board in exchange for mending the patrons’ shirts. She does her embroidery and lacework on the side to make extra money.
Her contentment is short lived, as she soon learns of her mother’s arrival and quick admittance to the Publick Hospital, a place for lunatics. Elisabeth finds her mother well, but drugged by their family doctor, Hessel. He later assures her that it is the safest place for her mother, given the present political environment.
But her mother does not remain there. Priscilla contacts fellow free thinkers in Pennsylvania and is offered sanctuary with them. She urges Elisabeth to flee with her, but Elisabeth refuses. Her home has always been in Virginia.
Noble makes sure to find a reason to visit Elisabeth in her new home, and the attraction between them grows deeper, although neither will admit it. Noble attends the auction of Lord Stirling’s house and belongings. He buys Elisabeth’s harp and brings it to his mansion, hoping that she will one day play it for him. He also purchases her music box and delivers it to her, hoping it will bring her some comfort in her new, poorer, circumstances.
Elisabeth’s old friend Cressida pays a visit to Noble and flirts with him. She then gives him an unsigned letter that claims Elisabeth is a spy. Noble refuses Cressida’s advances and does not believe the letter. Noble shows the missive to Elisabeth, who refutes its claims. She feels betrayed to learn Cressida gave it to him. Noble warns her to be careful as the letter proves there are people who wish to do her harm.
Elisabeth decides to throw her future in with the Independence Men and courageously visits her father in an effort to gain information for Noble’s cause. She convinces her father she is a loyal Tory, but upon returning to Williamsburg, she seeks out Noble to tell him all she learned about the British plans.
Noble wishes to keep her from future spying, but Patrick Henry sees Elisabeth as the perfect person to get information from the Tories. Her father wants her to attend a Tory ball upon an anchored ship so she can pass him information about the Independence Men. Noble does not want her to go, as he fears for her life.
Elisabeth gathers information for the revolutionary cause and returns to Noble’s estate. He has prepared a small cottage, out of view of his mansion, for her to stay in for as long as she needs. Noble discovers that she will need it longer than expected, as someone has set her home on fire.
Noble returns to tell her the news and to ask her to marry him. She readily agrees. The two are wed in secret a week later.
Noble is made a major in the 2nd Virginia Regiment, and Elisabeth sets herself to making his uniform. He agrees to let her go on one last spying mission. She is to attend another ball, this one at the Sprowle mansion. Her father takes her captive at the house, locking her in the study and promising to have her drugged if she refuses to obey him.
He suspects she has been spying for the Patriots and wants to keep her safely under his thumb. Her old friend Dr. Hessel insists on giving her the drug, as he wants to keep her from the lecherous men at the ball. He knows her father wants to find another match for her among the dignitaries at the ball, but Hessel is in love with her himself. She admits to him that she has already married an Independence Man. Shaken, Hessel locks her in the study.
Elisabeth looks for an escape, but there is none. Fortunately, the mistress of the house unlocks the door and frees her. She flees the house and finds Noble waiting. Her father's people attack the two, but they fight back and arrive home. Noble must soon muster with his regiment, but news of a fire at his home sends him back. The fire was not on his property, but a violent storm allows him time with Elisabeth, and they finally consummate their marriage.
Their love continues to grow, but their faith is tested when Noble must return to the Army and Elisabeth is kidnapped by her father and held captive aboard a British ship. Noble is informed of her imprisonment and vows to trade himself for her freedom. He is particularly motivated once he receives a letter in which she admits she carries his child. The prisoner exchange is made just before Christmas. Noble takes her place aboard the ship while Elisabeth is sent home to Williamsburg, where she delivers twins, a boy and a girl, four months later.
As summer approaches, Noble and his fellow prisoners hear rumors of their being forced to enlist in the British army or be taken to the West Indies to serve on British warships. Noble incites the others to rebel against their captors, knowing that many of them may die in the attempt. He is injured in the escape, receiving a wound to his leg that will keep him from further military duty.
He returns to his estate, to a loving wife and two healthy children. He serves the revolution by helping to draw up the Articles of the Confederation.