In 1913, beautiful but spiteful Marianne Trenwith has everything her younger sister, Sarah, wants, including the dashing Troy Pelham. But in a fit of petulance Marianne breaks off her engagement, much to Troy's relief and her family's mortification. As Sarah and Troy's friendship blossoms, Marianne warns her sister that a match will never be permitted and their parents will do anything to avoid a scandal.
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Luke Trenwith is keen to serve his country, and no less keen to escape his overbearing parents, who refuse to take his aspirations as an artist seriously. War is also a chance for him to leave behind the beguiling Rose Barlow, a maid at the house for whom Luke feels more than he ought...Jack Barlow is leaving his job as a groom at Trenwith Hall for the trenches. His sister Rose is also keen to do her bit and is joining the VADs. Jack is destined to cross paths with Luke Trenwith again.
Luke Trenwith is back at Trenwith Hall, relatively unscathed but surer than ever that life will never be the same. Keen to fulfil his promise to Jack Barlow, the Trenwiths' former groom, he heads to London to tell Rose Barlow the not-altogether-truthful news that her brother died a hero.