150 years ago, when fire could and did decimate entire cities and their infrastructure, we learn just how dangerous a single spark could be, and how the insurance industry dealt with both the wealthy and the lowly.
Penney Hollingsworth, a young Boston socialite with a yearning to break the gender barriers as well as fight for women’s equality, tries to earn a position within her father’s company; Hollingsworth Casualty and Life Insurance.
In her father’s offices Penelope befriends Lorna Brady Halcrow, a poor widow from Edinburgh, who was swindled by a bogus insurance agent out of her missing husband’s life insurance. Penney secretly vows to assist this widow.
Lorna however wants nothing to do with charity and Penney has to coax and cajole Lorna into working for her as her personal secretary. Penney’s persistence pays off and she and Lorna start working together on behalf of her father’s company attending various functions in his stead.
Their travels take them to a branch office in Chicago where they arrive just days prior to the Great Chicago fire. The fire breaks out and we discover just how resourceful Penelope is as they escape the fire and assist in the recovery of one of America’s great cities.