Ashton, also known as Ashok, is born in India. His parents are an aristocratic English couple. When the boy is 6, cholera breaks out and kills everyone except for himself and his Hindu nurse. The nurse raises Ashton as her own son. He has a dark complexion, not so dark as the locals but enough to pass for one from the Northern parts of the country where people are paler. Aston thinks himself an Indian, and when he is told that he is actually British he struggles with his identity.
Ashton grows up working as a servant at the king’s palace in the small kingdom of Gulkote. He meets Anjuli, a princess, who has a similar problem: her now dead mother was half-Indian and half-Russian, so Anjuli is not fully Indian and therefore not properly accepted. The two lonely children become friends. However, one day this friendship almost costs Ashton his life: the princess’ enemies who constantly plot against her want to get rid of him. Ashton is smuggled out of the country and sent to England where he is to be educated as an Englishman.
He returns many years later as a British army officer, still torn apart between the two cultures: his childhood experiences will not allow him to be truly English. Ashton is eventually reunited with Anjuli, now a beautiful young woman. She has managed to survive the intrigues of her enemies – so far; but the turmoil the country is in is not over, and it is getting worse. Ashton and Anjuli have to flee together.