In New York City, mid 1800s, Junius Fox, an educated young black man, is fascinated by the brownstones where the white gentry live. He yearns to live in one, to know it and possess it.
After years of longing, Junius finally gets close to satisfying his obsession when he finds work as a waiter in a brownstone owned by a widow. But when the widow dies, Junius takes up a job as butler in the sumptuous brownstone of Madame Ida, who runs the most exclusive brothel in the city. Madame Ida offers her aging white male clientele the illusion of freshness, propriety, and youth.
Junius loves the house’s ornate furnishings, savors its aromas, caresses its surfaces. He even finds love with Ida’s personal maid, Thelma.
But Junius struggles to hold on to his brownstone, facing racial and sexual prejudice, a sudden death in the parlor, and an inevitable decision between true love and an absorbing but unobtainable obsession.