Mark Robarts, a young vicar, is newly arrived in the village of Framley. With ambitions to further his career, he seeks connections in the county’s high society. He is soon preyed upon by a local member of parliament to guarantee a substantial loan, which Mark in a moment of weakness agrees to, even though he knows the man is a notorious debtor, and which brings him to the brink of ruin.
Meanwhile, Mark’s sister, Lucy, is deeply in love with Lord Lufton, the son of the lofty Lady Lufton. Lord Lufton has proposed, but Lady Lufton is against the marriage, preferring that her son choose the coldly beautiful Griselda Grantly.
The novel will conclude with four happy marriages, including one involving Doctor Thorne, the hero of the preceding book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series.
"He was too imperious, too masterful, too much inclined to think that all things should be made to go as he would have them."
Thus Trollope describes his hero Harry Heathcote, a settler and sheep farmer in the untamed bush of Australia in 1871. However, Harry has made enemies. In seeking always to act in the honourable fashion he cannot bend and embrace the weaknesses of others. A group of ex-convicts and disgruntled ex-employees threaten to burn his land and ruin him. Harry fights to protect his family and all he has worked for, despite his fears and self doubt and the apparent recalcitrance of a neighbour, Medlicot, a "Free Selector" from the home country. Will his problems be resolved? Will he learn from his experiences? - Well this is a Christmas story!