Victorian historical with Gothic subplot. Colin and Fern marry as a proper young couple should, which is to say they don't know each other very well: Colin plans to return to his mistress shortly after the marriage, and Fern--well, Fern isn't sure what she plans, beyond perfection; surely marrying the perfect man will make her perfect, too. On their honeymoon, they both discover they're human: Fern already knew this about herself, but Colin didn't, and he didn't know it about her. She requires him to actually think about her motivations, and his own: she is more disturbed than pleased by sex, feeling as if even the pleasure takes control from her. In an argument, she slaps him -- and Colin finds, to his surprise, that it wakes him up and makes him feel alive for the first time in his life. There's some mild SM here; Joyce is very good at combining Colin's interest in masochism with his unquestioning assumption of social domination and Fern's interest in control with her own frustration at powerlessness. Fern, especially, as someone waking up to her own half-buried resentment of social norms, is remarkable.
The ending goes off into a nonsensical Gothic mystery about Colin's Elizabethean antecedents, about which I could care less. I would much rather have had more of Colin and Fern talking to each other. The doubtful but determined hopefulness of the ending is worth its weight in gold.