The Reverend Samuel Adams is totally involved in serving the needs of his parish in the rapidly developing town of Afton on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay but over-worked he is forced by his Bishop to take an assistant. She turns out to be a bright, attractive young woman who brings with her a turbulent emotional life. When one of those who has caused her conflicts and who has recently been released from prison, comes back into her life, she becomes obsessed with his rehabilitation. Her complicated relationship with him is immediately misunderstood as a love affair. Determined to disregard the increasing rumors about them, she innocently provokes him to violence that ends in tragedy. The story is told through the eyes of a very human and humorous priest who enjoys his martinis and is not swayed by what he considers meaningless convention. The joy and sorrow that his assistant has brought into his life and parish gives Sam a much deeper understanding of his role as a faithful servant in the vineyard.