The year is 1916 and twenty-year-old Poppy Barlow is clearing the desk of her late father when she comes across a faded photograph of her father with his two sisters - aunts that Poppy never knew she had - along with their address. Poppy contacts her aunts, and is thrilled when they invite her to stay with them in Sheffield. But while Dale House might look grand from the outside, on closer inspection, the place is run-down and crumbling.
Poppy determines to change all this and applies for a job at the local scythe works - to the horror of her aunts. As Poppy learns to survive, she is tormented by many unanswered questions. Why had her father rejected Dale House? Why had he never mentioned his sisters or the past? And what could have happened between her aunts and Frederick Kenton, her new boss, that could cause them so much anguish every time his name, or the scythe works, is mentioned?