In 1883, the New York Times prints a lengthy rave of Alva Vanderbilt's Fifth Ave. costume ball--a coup for the former Alva Smith, who not long before was destitute, her family's good name useless on its own. Marrying into the newly rich but socially scorned Vanderbilt clan, a union contrived by Alva's bestfriend and now-Duchess of Manchester, saved the Smiths--and elevated the Vanderbilts.
From outside, Alva seems to have it all and want more. She does have a knack for getting all she tries for: the costume ball--no mere amusement--wrests acceptance from doyenne Caroline Astor. Denied abox at the Academy of Music, Alva founds The Met. No obstacle puts her off for long.
But how much of ambition arises from insecurity? From despair? From refusal to play insipid games by absurd rules? --There are, however, consequences to breaking those rules. One must tread carefully.
And what of her maddening sister-in-law, Alice? Her husband William, who's hiding a terrible betrayal? The not-entirely-unwelcome attentions of his friend Oliver Belmont, who is everything William is not? What of her own best friend, whose troubles cast a wide net?
Alva will build mansions, push boundaries, test friendships, and marry her daughter to England's most eligible duke or die trying. She means to do right by all, but good behavior will only get a woman so far. What is the price of going further? What might be the rewards? There's only one way to know for certain...