Adapted from a story by Mary McCarthy, a woman from a small town has her secret life as a romance novelist revealed. She falls in love with an artist when he helps her open up. Then she helps him overcome his conflict with his father.
At the Lynnfield Bugle the publisher Jed Waterbury (Thomas Mitchell) fields phone calls from readers complaining about their serialization of a novel by Caroline Adams, and he defends his decision to print it. Theodora Lynn (Irene Dunne) also calls to disapprove. She says the Literary Circle is having a meeting to discuss the book.
At the library Rebecca Perry (Spring Byington) is reading from the story in the newspaper as women react. Jed says he printed extra copies and says it is civilization. Theodora says the Lynn family wants the story stopped. The women vote in favor of that, and Jed says he will quit printing it. Rebecca proposes that they pass a resolution to stop the printing of the book too, and it passes. They walk home, and Rebecca tells Theodora she will send a telegram to the book publisher.
Arthur Stevenson (Thurston Hall) reads the telegram and tells his secretary that Miss Adams will love it. He welcomes Miss Adams in, and Theodora tells him not to use her name. She says it sounded bad. The secretary brings her an aspirin. Arthur reminds her of her larger bank account. She says she is part of the Literary Circle. She thought the book was romantic. He asks about her package, and she says Rebecca sent cookies. Theodora says she is upset and will not write any more. Arthur wants his wife to see her. Ethel Stevenson (Nana Bryant) comes in and is surprised to see Theodora. Michael Grant (Melvyn Douglas) comes in too and says he did the cover for her book. She complains the woman was undressed, but he says he found her that way in her book. He wonders if she is Caroline Adams. Ethel wants to meet Theodora again, and Arthur agrees to invite her to dinner. Michael ate some of the cookies.
Theodora talks with Uncle John Lynn (Robert Greig) and says she only wants her usual check. He counsels her to loosen up. Adelaide Perry (Rosalind Keith) comes in, and Theodora is glad to see her. She says a hungry man ate up her cookies. John says Theodora is hiding away Adelaide because she is having a baby, but Theodora reminds him she is married.
The Stevensons and Theodora go to a Swedish restaurant and serve themselves from the smorgasbord. Michael is there and says he found them by going to the place where they would try to avoid him. They sit at a table. Michael asks if Theodora is drinking, and she says no. After a discussion she orders straight whiskey.
Later Theodora is tipsy. Arthur reminds her of her train. Theodora does not tell Michael what her town is. They go dancing. Michael dances with Theodora, who says she is floating on a breeze. Arthur tells Adelaide they have to put Theodora on her train. Adelaide needs help walking from Arthur.
Michael takes Theodora to his apartment, and he refers to her book. He shows her his latest painting. He takes her coat, and she turns on a light. She notices the music, and he offers her a Scotch. He sits close to her, says she is adorable, and tries to kiss her. She jumps up, tells him to keep away from her, and goes out the door.
Theodora leads the singing of “Rock of Ages” at a church in Lynnfield. She walks home with Rebecca. Michael whistles “Pop Goes the Weasel” and passes them by. In her house Theodora hears his whistling and sees him out by the gate. She tells him to leave town fast, and she warns him her aunts are watching him. He tells her he wants to be their gardener. Aunt Mary Linn (Elisabeth Risdon) and Aunt Elsie Linn (Margaret McWade) from the window say they don’t want him. He says he is telling his life story and comes in with Theodora. He orders his dog to stop barking. He says he wants to work to get is self-respect back. He says he will find work in that town. Theodora gives him the room in the tool-house. Mary says they can’t leave her alone with him. Rebecca says he is good-looking and young. Michael tells Theodora he will be happy there.
That evening Michael whistles in the shed. In the house Theodora tries to read. Elsie says he put his light out. His whistling continues and bothers the aunts. Theodora plays the piano, and he whistles back. She sings “Be Still My Heart.” He whistles the tune, and the aunts slam the door.
At breakfast the women hear the lawn-mower. Elsie says how much he ate for breakfast. Michael sings “Git Along, Little Dogie.” Theodora goes out and tells him to unhitch his dog. She tells him to trim the rosebushes. She asks how he tracked her to Lynnfield. He says he will break her out of that world. He suggests they pick berries tomorrow. Mary tells Michael he has his notice and must leave. Michael explains that roses need to be transplanted to revive.
Theodora and Michael have been picking berries, and he is tired. He lays with his head in her lap. He has her feed him berries. He makes fun of her for laughing in Lynnfield. He says she has normal desires that are being strangled. He says she writes about what she wants to experience but can’t. He had to break away from his family. He wanted to paint and won the battle. He calls his soul his own and asks about her. She asks him to stay out of Lynnfield. She says Caroline Adams was an accident. She says she has to help with dinner, and they go back. He invites her to go fishing at five in the morning. He says he might reveal her as Caroline Adams.
Michael shows Theodora how to cast, and she catches a fish right away. She has caught five, but he has not caught any. They sit by a fire. She asks when he is leaving town. He does not know. She stirs the fire, and smokes engulfs them. He tries to comfort her and kisses her. On the way home they sing “Three Blind Mice.” People silently walk by them, and Theodora says she forgot it was Sunday.
Mary and Rebecca plan their bazaar with other women, and Theodora leaves the room. Rebecca brings up the conduct of Theodora, but Mary tells her not to.
That evening Theodora hears Michael whistling and runs out to the shed. She tells him he has to leave; it is serious. He takes care of his dog, and she realizes the women are watching them. Theodora goes back in the house and brings a cake to the ladies. She defends her going out there. She says she went out to tell him he has to go even though she does not want him to. She says he is going to stay there.
Theodora tells Michael that she stood up for him because she loves him, and no one is going to stop her. She puts her cheek on his shoulder. She asks if he is proud, and he says he will tell the world and calls her “baby.” She says goodnight and kisses him before going.
In the morning Theodora finds a letter from Michael saying it was time for him to move on to other gardens.
Michael’s servant wakes him up at ten because his father is coming. Theodora comes in, returning his dog. He says writing that note was difficult. He says he felt the same way about her. He did not know it until that night. He says he had no right to do that because of his circumstances. He will meet her at the Ritz for lunch. His father Jonathan Grant (Henry Kolker) comes in with Agnes Grant (Leona Maricle), and Michael tells Theodora this is his wife. His father is disappointed that he ran out of town. His father wants his son to appear with Agnes, but Michael says they are getting divorced. His father says he knows what is expected of him. His father and Agnes leave. Theodora says he needs an artist’s model, and she can model for him like he gardened for her. He says his situation is not like hers. He was brought up to respect his father. When he is free, the world be theirs. His father is running for attorney general, and that will delay it two years. She says he needs a model. She calls to have her boxes sent up. She asks where his tool-house is. He says she will not move in there and loudly says he is out.
Theodora goes to see Arthur and says she is dissatisfied with her publisher. She wants publicity using both her names.
A telegraph dispatch from the Associated Press comes to the Lynnfield Bugle. Jed says it is war and announces in the window that Caroline Adams is Lynnfield’s daughter.
Michael’s father complains that his son’s address is getting out. Agnes says the woman is trying to break up their marriage. She may have to bring divorce action against Michael.
Michael and a larger man go in the same apartment. Theodora in a costume is entertaining reporters, telling them about her life. She admits that it is Michael Grant’s apartment. She welcomes Uncle John and says she is proud of him. They ask her about Grant’s apartment, but she puts it off and has them leave. John says she is terrific and that she has gone wild. She says she is fine. He asks what made it happen, and she says it is what makes the world go round. She wants to paint the town red.
Michael dictates a letter in Arthur’s office, and he says he could kill Theodora. Arthur laughs and says Michael got his nose caught in a meat-grinder. Ethel advises Arthur to be careful. Theodora calls Arthur, and he pretends it is someone else. She asks to meet him for dinner. He says no, and she says she might find another publisher. He says goodbye.
At night Theodora helps drunk Arthur get home. He says she can’t leave him, and she promises to stay with him. He falls down and pulls her down on the floor.
Jed says he has a story for the front page. Rebecca hears about the divorce action, and women gossip. Aunt Mary lectures Rebecca.
Theodora plays piano, and Michael warns her she is getting a bad reputation. He asks her to get out of town until the Governor’s reception is over. She asks if they have to wait two years. She says reporters are coming in, and Michael leaves.
Michael meets the Governor at the reception. Women talk about the woman novelist who is using his apartment. He says he accommodated her. Theodora dances with the Governor, and Michael dances with Agnes. Jonathan asks his son if she is the woman. The Governor introduces Miss Adams to the Grants. Michael asks for the next dance, but the Governor dances with her again. Michael dances with Agnes and bumps into the Governor. They change partners. Theodora reminds Michael of the cure and suggests he whistle. Michael tells the reporters that he just met her. Privately he warns her not to cause a scandal. She asks if she is to go back to Lynnfield, and he says yes. She agrees but asks for a kiss. She embraces him, and photos are taken. Agnes tells the Governor who she is.
Lynnfield gets news of the divorce proceeding. In church they sing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Jed learns that Caroline Adams vanished. Aunt Mary asks Uncle John where she is.
Theodora visits Adelaide in the hospital and asks about her baby. Women in Lynnfield prepare for the return of Caroline Adams and plan to ignore her. Yet people gather, and Jed shakes hands with the aunts. Jed is glad to see the Literary Circle there. Many people greet the arriving train, and a band plays. Theodora is welcomed by Jed and the others. She brings a baby, and the band stops playing. She hands the baby to Mary, and they get in a car. Adelaide and her husband are not noticed.
Michael rehearses his speech to Theodora with his dog. The people parade behind the car. Theodore brings the baby in the house. Michael says they are free; but he is shocked by the baby and walks out. She says it is not hers. She hands the baby to the grandmother, Rebecca, who is aghast.
This romantic comedy satirizes a town of conservative, gossiping women while portraying how a women writer meets an artist who helps her to experience what she writes about. She goes so wild that she nearly causes a scandal in his family but in the process helps him to open up too.