For Mattie Willit, caught in a thunderstorm running away from her bullying stepfather, rescue comes in the form of Jacob Kemble, a widowed farmer living with his two young children. She is escaping from an enforced marriage; he, struggling with the memory of a loveless one. As Jacob nurses Mattie back to health, the two come know and love each other. Meanwhile, wealthy and elderly Miss Emily Newington needs their help to save her from her greedy cousin who is plotting to take her house.
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After being driven from home by their brutal father, the Willett sisters find themselves facing greater heartache in the wider world. Nell, the middle daughter, has left home to be with her lover, Cliff, fearing what reprisals might come from marrying against her father’s wishes. The couple head for Lancashire, but Nell’s happiness is short-lived.
Renie, the youngest sister, is living with the newly married Nell, happy in her waitressing job at the King’s Head Hotel. But a shadow falls over her the day Mr Judson arrives as assistant manager. Feeling increasingly harassed by him and also eager to escape from Nell’s unpleasant husband, Renie is delighted when she is offered a new job in London.