Lotti St. Rémy, 12, is living in her parent's large house called Barton Lacey with her rather unlikable Aunt Vera and Uncle Hubert Netherbury when she isn't being shipped off to dreadful boarding schools only to get expelled. Her parents had both died in an accident and the Netherbury's were Lotti's guardians. What Lotti doesn't understand is why she hasn't heard anything from her beloved French grandmother since her parents death. Grandmother and granddaughter has always been so close.
Ben and Lotti meet onboard the Sparrowhawk after Lotti rescues an abused Chihuahua she promptly renames Federico. Naturally, her uncle threatens to have it shot when he discovers it and send her off to the most dreadful boarding school yet. Ben has been dodging the local constable, Albert Skinner, who doesn't believe Sam is coming home and wants to put Ben back into the orphanage he and Sam has lived in before Nathan adopted them.
Somehow, Lotti convinces her uncle to let a reclusive Clara Primrose tutor her and Ben. Clara has been waiting for the love of her life to return from the war, having promised to wait for him and earning her living as a translator.