This is a dual timeline novel. One-part centers around the Tennessee Centennial Exposition (May 1 – October 31, 1897) in Nashville. The main character is twenty-five-year-old Priscilla Nichols. Her wealthy railroad investor family has spent lots of time and money on the celebration. Her father hires Luca Moretti to guide the family around the city and his sister Gia is hired to be Priscilla’s lady’s maid. Priscilla’s parents expect her to marry, the sooner the better, within their social class. In spite of that, Priscilla falls in love with Luca, and Gia mysteriously disappears.
The second part of the novel takes place in 1961. Audrey Whitfield, daughter of the Maxwell Hotel’s manager, leaves college after her mother dies. Her father needs help at the hotel and help with her special needs’ brother Emmett. By 1961, the Maxwell Hotel has become a residence mostly for elderly people. When a longtime resident suffers a stroke, Audrey along with the help of civil rights lawyer-in-training Jason Sumner pack up her belongings. They discover a fascinating scrapbook with souvenirs from the 1897 Exposition along with postcards never sent.
In the novel and in history, the Maxwell Hotel was destroyed by fire on Christmas night in 1961. People escaped with the just the clothes on their backs. Fortunately, Audrey was able to save the scrapbook and eventually connect the history behind it, Priscilla Nichols, and 1961.