Beautiful, flaxen-haired Buttercup has fallen for Westley, the farm boy, and when he departs to make his fortune, she vows never to love another. So, when she hears that his ship has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts (no survivors) her heart is broken.
Lucy has her rigid, middle-class life mapped out for her until she visits Florence with her uptight cousin Charlotte, and finds her neatly ordered existence thrown off balance. Lucy finds herself torn between the intensity of life in Italy and the repressed morals of Victorian England, personified in her terminally dull fiance Cecil Vyse.
Summoning up more than 20 years of Japan's most dramatic history, the geisha's story uncovers a hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. It moves from a small fishing village in 1929 to the glamorous and decadent Kyoto of the 30s and on to postwar New York.