The year is 1795 and young Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) is a feisty 20-year-old emerging writer who already sees a world beyond class and commerce, beyond pride and prejudice, and dreams of doing what was then nearly unthinkable--marrying for love, without any regard for financial well-being.
Naturally, her parents (Julie Walters, James Cromwell) are searching for a wealthy, well-appointed husband to assure their daughter's future social standing. They are eyeing Mr. Wisley (Laurence Fox), nephew to the very formidable, not to mention the very rich, local aristocrat Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith), as a prospective match. But when Jane meets the roguish and decidedly non-aristocratic Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), sparks soon fly along with the sharp repartee. His intellect and arrogance raise her ire--then knock her head over heels.
Now, the couple, whose flirtation flies in the face of the common sense of the age, are faced with a terrible dilemma. If they attempt to marry, they will risk everything that matters--family, friends and fortune.