Dark secrets haunt the manor house at Selden in Buckinghamshire, where Emilie Selden, motherless, fiercely intelligent and beautiful, has been raised in near isolation by her father. John Selden, student of Isaac Newton, is conducting a secret experiment. He aims to turn Emilie into a brilliant natural philosopher and alchemist and fills her with knowledge while recording every step she takes. In the spring of 1725, when Emilie is eighteen, father and daughter begin their most daring adventure - an attempt to breathe life into dead matter. But they are interrupted by the arrival of two strangers. During the course of a sultry August, Emilie is caught up in the passion of first love and, listening for the first time to her heart rather than her head, she makes her choice...with consequences that are far-reaching and tumultuous.