It is 1899. England is fighting the Boers, Queen Victoria's reign will soon be over and change is in the air. A young girl from Devon, Phoebe Drewitt, escapes her brutal father and a hard life on Dartmoor, her head full of dreams. She is rescued by the reclusive, middle-aged Kendall Bartholomew, but are his motives as innocent as they appear? For Arnold Randolph-Smythe, shopkeeper and upstanding citizen of Barlton in Devon, life is more than satisfactory. His shop is successful and his daughter adores him, though his rich wife does not. Yet appearances can be deceptive. Dulcie, his wife, meets Phoebe and invites her to their home. The arguments, hatreds and loves that follow have profound repercussions for all involved.