|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
It is a fictional story of the life of Miranda Wells and her marriage to Nicholas Van Ryn, set against an historical background of the Patroon system, Anti-Rent Wars, the Astor Place Riots, and steamboat racing on the Hudson River.
The book focuses on Miranda Wells: her longing for her rich cousin Nicholas Van Ryn; her eventual marriage to him; and ultimately her discovery of her husband's dark and twisted actions.
The story begins in May 1844 with Miranda Wells, daughter of a humble farmer in Greenwich, Connecticut. Miranda's mother receives a letter from Nicholas Van Ryn, a rich relative and Patroon of a large manor called Dragonwyck near Hudson, New York. In the letter Van Ryn invites one of the Wells girls to Dragonwyck, to act as company for his daughter Katrine. After initial doubts, Miranda's parents allow her to go to Dragonwyck, and Miranda is instantly attracted and intrigued by her rich and mysterious relative, Nicholas.
However not everyone welcomes Miranda to Dragonwyck. Nicholas' corpulent and lazy wife Johanna sees Miranda as a threat, and tries to keep her from her husband Nicholas. Soon Miranda encounters Doctor Jeff Turner, a skilled physician, but a passionate anti-renter who believes that rich Patroons like the Van Ryns should give up their large estates. The pair initially dislike each other, and because of his views, Miranda is baffled when Nicholas asks Dr Turner to attend to his wife, who has a cold. However while Dr Turner is at Dragonwyck, Johanna becomes violently ill and dies. As Dr Turner leaves wondering what caused such a sudden death, Nicholas asks Miranda to marry him, and she accepts.
However married life to Nicholas Van Ryn is far from what Miranda imagined. As the story moves on Nicholas's true mental state, and his thirst for power become evident. After their only child dies, the relationship between Miranda and her husband withers, and the bonds between Miranda and Dr Turner strengthen. Miranda and Dr Turner eventually discover that Nicholas poisoned his first wife Johanna with oleander. They confront him, and try to escape, but Nicholas catches up with Miranda on a steamboat travelling down the Hudson River. The steamboat gets caught up in a race, catches fire, and crashes. Miranda is saved by her husband Nicholas, but he dies trying to save other passengers from the steamboat. After the ordeal Miranda and Dr Turner marry, leaving the Hudson Valley area forever, for a new life in California.