The novel opens with Denis Stone; a young and hopeful poet who is filled with excitement, during his journey to Crome, at the thought of being the guest of his old friends, Henry and Priscilla Wimbush; not particularly on their own account, but rather on that of their niece. Anne Wimbush, for that is her name, is depicted as a young modern woman. She is slightly older than Denis. Yet, this fact does not seem to hinder the lad from nurturing strong emotions towards her. In fact, his visit is altogether prompted by designs and desires of establishing a strong link, and a solid relationship between them before the vacation is over.
Soon after his arrival, however, Denis is met with disappointments that mark the beginning of a mental progress filled with struggles. He realizes, with a great deal of dissatisfaction, that he is not the center, around which, the other guests would spin. To his vexation, his adventures and anecdotes in London attract very little attention and interest; for which reason, he soon relapses into silence and a quiet observation of the little party assembled at Crome.
Only at this point does Denis understand the bitter reason behind the dull reception with which he is met. Besides himself, Henry Wimsbush had secured for companions a small circle of intellectuals counting many who outshone Denis and his humble career as a poet. Among these guests, a painter named Gombauld is the one who occupies the position of a rival in the eyes of the young poet on account of the advances he makes towards Anne. Denis is very displeased with the situation, but instead of diving into the realm of action and doing something to prevent the loss of his beloved, he rather sinks into a state of self-doubt caused by multiple literary and philosophical conversations with Messrs. Barbecue-Smith and Scogan.
Meanwhile, the other characters are gradually introduced. Priscilla Wimbush, for one, nurtures a strong interest, bordering on obsession, towards alternative spirituality and astrology. Her husband, Henry, rather flees the present in the far memory of his ancestors. Accordingly, he takes upon himself the task of recording the history of Crome and its occupants, to which, he consecrates occasional readings to his guests. The rather naïve Mary Bracegirdle undergoes an inner conflict in connection with sexual repression. She too attempts to flee her conflicts through attempted advances towards Gombauld and Denis himself before settling at last on the libertine Ivor Lombard. On her side, Jenny Mullion confines her thoughts and opinions to the pages of her journal under the form of deconstructionist sketches of her fellow guests.
Being given from the perspective of Denis Stone as a central character, the story follows this set of characters in parallel with the poet’s own quest of capturing Anne’s affection. Having found that both task and woman are beyond his means, Denis resigns his pursuit, and attempts to commit himself to determined action, for the first time, by faking a telegram calling him back immediately to London. Chrome Yelow is thus a different type of literary composition on account of its development of the characters’ mental and psychological states rather than the plot itself.