|"Lucy Honeychurch, a naive English girl, and her fussy chaperon, Charlotte Bartlett, are visiting Florence for the first time. They are annoyed when their pension rooms have no view of the Arno, so an "ill-bred" and unpopular fellow guest, Mr Emerson, offers to swap with them. Mr Beebe, a clergyman, reassures them that Emerson, though a Socialist, has no ulterior motive, and they accept his offer.
Lucy meets Mr Emerson and his son George when she is lost while sight-seeing. She finds the father kind and the son interesting despite their unconventionality. Later Lucy witnesses a fatal stabbing in the street and faints; George helps her back to the pension. Lucy tries to avoid George as the other guests gossip uncharitably about the Emersons, but is aware of a subtle change in her feelings. During an expedition, on a hillside covered in violets, George kisses her impulsively. Charlotte, witnessing this, decides they should leave Florence.
Back in England, several months later, Lucy becomes engaged to supercilious aristocrat Cecil Vyse, with whom she has little in common. When the Emersons move nearby, Lucy's brother Freddy befriends George, inviting him to a tennis party. Cecil refuses to play, instead reading aloud from a new novel he despises. As he reads a passage concerning a stolen kiss, Lucy realises that Charlotte has betrayed her confidence to the lady novelist they met in Italy. George kisses her again and, when she tries to discourage him, tells her Cecil is stifling her. Her feelings are in turmoil. Should she break off the engagement?
Lucy has to decide between propriety and passion, between social acceptance and independence, between England and Italy. Not merely a typical romance, this is also a story of personal growth and the challenging of convention, told with a lightly humorous touch."
Maureen Evans, Resident Scholar