With a wife he loves and an exciting London-based career, architect Charles Waterston's life seems in perfect balance. Nothing in his comfortable existence prepares him for the sudden end to his ten-year marriage—or his unwanted transfer to his firm's New York office. With nothing left to lose, Charlie takes a leave of absence from his job to drive through New England, hoping to make peace with himself.
Christmas is approaching when Charlie leaves New York, heading to Vermont to ski. But a sudden, blinding snowstorm strands him in a small Massachusetts town. There, as if by chance, Charlie meets an elderly widow who offers to rent him her most precious possession: a remote, exquisite lakeside chateau. Hidden deep in the woods, it once belonged to a woman who lived and died there two centuries before. Her name was Sarah Ferguson. And from the moment Charlie sets foot inside the chateau's graceful depths, he feels her presence, and longs to know more about the life she led.
It is Christmas Eve when Charlie first glimpses her, a beautiful young woman with jet black hair. He thinks it is a neighbor playing a joke on him, until he finds her diaries hidden away in an old trunk. As he begins to turn the brittle, dusty pages, Sarah Ferguson comes alive. Intrigued and unafraid, Charlie immerses himself in the diaries, eager to learn more about the woman for whom the house was built. Sarah's first entry is dated 1789, the year she arrived in America. Without self-pity or sentiment, she writes of her harrowing journey from her native England, having fled the brutality of her aristocratic husband. Settling in Massachusetts, Sarah finds an unfamiliar land seething with the turbulence of the Indian wars. Determined to start a new life in the vast new world, Sarah finds freedom—and danger—as she builds her home in the wilderness and meets a man who will transform her life. His name is François de Pellerin, a French nobleman adopted by Indians and drawn into the battle for the growing nation. Their fateful union is a testament to a love so powerful it reaches across the centuries. And for Charlie Waterston, caught between Sarah's world and his own, their story is a gift—one that gives him the courage to let go of his past, and the freedom to grasp a future that is right before his eyes.