One of the major characters in this novel of a Protestant young woman, and the Roman Catholic she marries, is the inspiring figure of Blessed John Cardinal Newman. In the story of Clem and Augustine, their courtship and marriage, and Clem's conversion to her husband's faith, the reader sees the vital, influential, and holy Cardinal through the eyes of friends.
Like Newman, the fictional character Clem was born in the Protestant faith, and their acquaintance begins before he or she becomes a Roman Catholic. The novel charts their ongoing friendship as it spans many years during which pivotal historical influences, such as the Industrial Revolution and the Oxford Movement, are shaping Victorian England.
Many important events, personages, and ideas in the life of Newman appear in the story--his reasons for becoming a Roman Catholic, his differences with Cardinal Manning, his work in the Birmingham Oratory, and his being made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. The author, a renowned biographer of Newman, used Newman's actual correspondence as the basis for his parts in the dialogue.