Rachel Gardner's family life is far from a happy one. Her father, Stanhope, is cold and remote and her mother Nellie seems to care for nothing but housework. Then, one day, Stanhope collapses in the street and dies - and the facade he had built up carefully for so many years is revealed as a sham.
Sad and confused, Rachel leaves home and flees to the one place she has known parental kindness: the home of the rector's daughter Angela, her school friend. As her feelings for Angela's elder brother David deepen into romance, Rachel believes she has everything she ever desired. But after the outbreak of the Second World War, David joins the RAF and returns horribly injured, refusing to see her.
Fate, however, gives Rachel another chance at love. And just as the pieces of her once-shattered life are falling into place, a new disaster threatens everything she holds dear.