As she explains in her concluding note, Cullen offers a "what if?" explanation for a mystery in Rembrandt's personal life: why, as a widower, he never married the mother of his out-of-wedlock daughter, Cornelia. Here Cornelia tells her own story, tracing through memory and present progressive narration her efforts to keep her irascible father in line and financially solvent, her dewy-eyed romance with a wealthy young art dealer, her more mature appreciation and, eventually, love for her father's apprentice, and her ultimate discovery that Rembrandt was not her natural father. There's enough interest in Cornelia's love life and Rembrandt's antisocial behavior to interest readers who don't know or care a fig about the master's artwork, and the tolling of the plague bells through the novel adds an element of menace that speeds the plot along. And that's a good thing, because interpolated chapters themed around specific Rembrandt's paintings suggest that both style and content are of great importance, but no reproductions of these paintings are offered. Besides a historical note, lists of characters (real and fictional) and paintings that appear in the novel are included, and readers who want to experience Rembrandt's artwork through Cornelia's eyes may be inspired to track down some reproductions.