London. 1850. On a crowded street, the dollmaker Iris Whittle meets the artist Louis Frost.
Louis is a painter who yearns to have his work displayed in the Royal Academy, and he is desperate for Iris to be his model. Iris agrees, on the condition that he teaches her to paint. Dreaming of freedom, Iris throws herself into a new life of art and love, unaware that she has caught the eye of a second man.
Silas Reed is a curiosity collector, enchanted by the strange and beautiful. After seeing Iris at the site of the Great Exhibition he finds he cannot forget her. As Iris’s world expands, Silas’s obsession grows.
And it is only a matter of time before they meet again . . .