Set in the 19th century and inspired by Edith Wharton’s women who were not passive victims of their lives, Frederick’s Heir is the story of two girls who defy the conventions of convent school and parties, the social system of Paris. Fredrica Navarreau, known as Rica, tries to live up to her grandfather’s expectations. Preparing to inherit his shipping company she tries to learn about the ships and cargo ledgers, activities far outside the constrictions of her French family’s position. Unable to understand her desire to use her mind her grandfather diverts her attention with the celebration of the opening of the Suez Canal and a trip to the Far East.
Celine Rabut, inchanted by the theatre and theatre people, begins studying acting in Paris. She lives in the Navarreau home while Rica is away and tries to help the family during the Prussian War. On her return Rica is dispatched to London to marry the son of family friends. The young women fee to New York where Celine’s career slowly grows as her parts become more important. Rica, fearing she has alienated her family, returns to Paris to find her grandfather has died and someone has snatched her inheritance.