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When the Lynnfield Bugle , a small Connecticut newspaper, runs a serial of Caroline Adams' risqué novel, The Sinner , editor Jed Waterbury receives many complaints from the puritannical townspeople. Among the outraged readers are leading citizens, Mary and Elsie Lynn, whose niece Theodora is the secret author of the scandalous novel. The literary circle, led by Mary, Elsie and straight-laced Rebecca Perry, force Jed to stop printing The Sinner . Soon after, under the pretext of visiting her Uncle John, the family's fun-loving black sheep, Theodora goes to New York to see her publisher, Arthur Stevenson. Stevenson is thrilled to be handling Theodora's best seller, but is frustrated by her refusal to participate in any publicity. Theodora, a Sunday school teacher and church organist, explains that although she wrote the novel as a mental escape from her stuffy existence, she would never dream of disgracing the family name by revealing that she is Caroline Adams. Theodora meets Stevenson's wife Ethel and also Michael Grant, the sophisticated artist who designed her book's cover. The four go out to dinner, during which Michael teases Theodora about her apparent lack of worldliness. Determined to act as she thinks Caroline Adams should, Theodora gets drunk and goes with Michael to his apartment. Theodora flees after being frightened by Michael's advances, and the illustrator chuckles to himself as his suspicions about her naïveté are confirmed. Back in Lynnfield, Michael, using the name Dubarry, arrives at Theodora's house and insists that she hire him as a gardener. Theodora quickly falls in love with him, and when the couple spend a morning picking berries, Michael tells her that she must break away and be herself. After they return to town, Theodora realizes that it is Sunday and she has forgotten her church duties. Later that night, Mary and Elsie are further scandalized when Theodora announces that she loves the gardener. The next morning, Michael returns to New York, and Theodora follows him. He confesses that he also loves her, but their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of his father Jonathan, who is the lieutenant governor, and Michael's wife Agnes, from whom he has been estranged for five years. Michael explains to Theodora that he cannot divorce Agnes because it would damage his father's career, but he promises Theodora that they can be married in two years, after his father retires. Determined to force Michael into action, Theodora moves into his apartment, after which he immediately moves out. Theodora then calls Stevenson and demands that her identity be revealed. The revelation stuns Lynnfield, but Theodora is not satisfied, and holds a press conference in Michael's apartment. While Theodora's aunts decide that she has "gone wild," Ethel, jealous of Theodora's notoriety, pronounces her to be "innocence on the manhunt." Later, Theodora escorts a drunken Stevenson to his home, and after Ethel sees them together, she files a divorce suit and names Theodora as the co-respondent. Ethel withdraws the suit, but Theodora creates a further uproar when she attends the governor's reception and reporters photograph Michael giving her a goodbye kiss. While Agnes is suing Michael for a divorce, Theodora returns to Lynnfield. Theodora brings with her the baby of Rebecca's daughter Adelaide, whom Theodora helped to secretly marry her sweetheart, Roger Taylor. Everyone in town assumes that the infant is Theodora's, and Michael, who has come to tell her that he is now free, also believes that she is the mother. Theodora then reveals that the baby is Adelaide's, and affectionately calls Michael an idiot when he embraces her.