Rhine lives in a future U.S. wherein the course of genetic engineering has brought about a virus that kills males at the age of 25 and females at the age of 20. When the story begins, sixteen year-old Rhine is abducted from New York and taken to a mansion in Florida with two other girls (Jenna, 18, and Cecily, 13). Although they are captives who find out they are to be married to 21 year-old "Governor Linden," they are actually somewhat lucky because many of the other girls who were initially rounded up with them were all executed.
The girls are treated relatively well in one sense. They have young indentured servants who wait on them, they live in a luxurious mansion, and though they have no freedom and only limited privacy, they are not otherwise maltreated. Linden's father, it turns out, masterminds the entire house operation and controls and manipulates Linden. Linden is actually quite kind and believes the girls were all "rescued" from an orphanage. Despite Rhine's growing understanding and affections for Linden, she still despises his father, resents Linden because she misses her twin brother and her freedom, and she has developed feelings for one of the servants, Gabriel.
The plot essentially follows the development of these characters in the house, trying to figure out exactly what "mad scientist" things Linden's father is doing in the basement in pursuit of a cure, and wondering if and how Rhine will escape. It reminded me quite a bit of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Although I liked the writing quite a lot and was very interested, I felt let down by the ending. It was just anti-climactic for me. Also, I kept having questions about the genesis and maintenance of the weird multiple-marriages arrangements that seem to be common but not the only types of marriages (but all of those do require enforcement?). I don't know, that whole situation just never really got explained in a way that fully made sense to me.
The cover is gorgeous. I didn't really get the "chemical garden" aspect of the novel, but maybe that's to be revealed in later books.