Elinor and Marianne are two daughters of Mr. Dashwood by his second wife. They have a younger sister, Margaret, and an older half-brother named John. When their father dies, the family estate passes to John and the Dashwood women are left in reduced circumstances. Fortunately, a distant relative offers to rent the women a cottage on his property.
The novel follows the Dashwood sisters to their new home, where they experience both romance and heartbreak.