The Butterfly Cabinet is set in Ireland, telling a long kept secret from the castle back in 1893. Maddie McGlade, now in her nineties, the year 1968, begins the story of her life and the things she witnessed as a servant under Harriet Ormond. Harriet also tells her end of the story through her prison diaries.
Harriet never put up with any nonsense from her children. They had to learn a lesson, if she didn’t punish them they would never become the obedient children they should. Maddie, and other servants in the house, thought Harriet went too far in her discipline. The sevants risked Harriet’s ire by sneaking food and drink to the children during long durations of learning how to behave. When the youngest child is found dead, Harriet is accused and thrown in prison. It seems that Maddie has a guilty conscious and must tell her story to someone before she dies. This book was inspired by a true story of the death of the daughter of an aristocratic Irish family at the end of the nineteenth century.