A woman’s story – set in Pre-Regency rural Shropshire (1794-1808) – introduces the working class folk of Linmore Dale.
Maria knows, from bitter experience, that a woman alone must do what she can to survive. Ten years ago, her life was in ruins, and she would have died but for the help of a gypsy herbalist in her time of need. Afterwards, she vowed to restore her good name and reputation, and if it took subterfuge to achieve, so be it.
Since then Maria has, by sacrificing her youthful looks, become Miss Dinchope, housekeeper, the epitome of primness and virtue. Her past is forgotten but she has learned that respectability has many faces; some of which hide dark secrets and intrigues that are every bit as threatening as her own experience.
Although she wishes to move on to better things, anger, an emotion she contrives to hide, drives her to protect the vulnerable servants for which she has responsibility. One little pauper child in particular, a new housemaid, touches an inexplicable chord of memory.
A foundling at birth, Nell Walcote accepts her lowly place in village life, and tries to ignore the attention her tawny curls attract. She knows that she is different, but cannot explain how she is able to learn her letters and numbers while others struggle to understand. She attends school because Mrs Lucinda Grimble declares it must be so – and no one argues with the farmer’s wife.
Forced to seek work at the age of ten, Nell meets Miss Dinchope, the housekeeper at Hillend Rectory. Engaged for a month’s trial, she responds well to a disciplined routine, but finds that while some servants pretend friendship, malice is their intent.
Receptive to atmosphere, she senses dark undercurrents in the clerical household, and people in authority who purport to be what they are not. She feels apprehensive, but how can she leave when there is nowhere to go, and what chance has a foundling of acquiring work elsewhere?
While Miss Dinchope holds fast to her wish to escape, Maria knows that having risen above adversity; she must train the girl for a better place in service, and, to avoid the problems that she encountered as a girl, insists that Nell avoids men… But will her guidance be enough?
A heart-warming story, which gives a rare insight into the lives of women to whom kindness, honesty and friendship mean more than money and social class. The second part of an interlinking series that is filled with love, loss, life and laughs.