During a trip to Europe, wealthy American businessman Christopher Newman proposes marriage to the scintillating and beautiful aristocrat Claire de Cintre. To his dismay, he comes up against the machinations of her impoverished but proud family, who find Newman to be a vulgar example of the American privileged class. Brilliantly combining elements of comedy, tragedy, romance, and melodrama, this tale of thwarted desire vividly contrasts nineteenth-century American and European manners. Literary critic Leon Edel, considered the foremost authority on the works of Henry James, wrote of this novel: "Behind its melodrama and its simple romance is the history of man's dream of better worlds, travel to strange lands, and marriage to high and noble ladies. At the same time, the book reveals a deep affection for American innocence and a deep awareness that such innocence carries with it a fund of ignorance."