Polly James has a difficult start in life. Evicted by her aunt and uncle at the age of 18 she is forced into the workhouse in 1820s London and one day, in desperation, she steals a ring – but is caught. As an alternative to jail she is offered the opportunity to go to Australia to live as a de facto wife for three farmers. Life in Australia is hard for these early settlers and the lack of women means that a young man from an aristocratic background, Archibald Burton, comes up with this scheme of a shared wife to help solve the problem.
Polly has a difficult voyage and is twice punished for crimes she did not commit and lives in trepidation of the life that awaits her in Australia. Fortunately two out of three of her ‘husbands’ turn out to be kind, and one, in particular, introduces Polly to the excitements of the bedroom she never knew existed. Unfortunately the third man does not treat Polly well, but she endures him, comforted by the fact that the other two make up for his cold treatment.
When tragedy comes to the farm, the local constable is shocked to hear about the living arrangements of the four people and believes that Polly is implicated in the death of one of the men. It takes a man she thought she would never see again to rescue her from the despair she feels at the injustice that is heaped upon her.