The death of their father and step-mother takes the siblings back to Kilmarnock to attend the funerals. The deaths have left young Phoebe, their half-sister, orphaned. And as the Moorhouses decide on her future, Phoebe faces a new life in Glasgow as she grows into a gallant and stormy beauty.
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Young Phoebe is engaged; Sophia, Mary and Bel's children are growing up and Arthur is engaging in some charity work. But the whole family is swiftly drawn into turmoil when the dashing and impulsive David falls in love with Lucy Rennie, a professional singer, whose career places her far beneath his family in the social order. Far worse is the fact that David is already engaged to the charms and riches of another.
The Moorhouses are finally becoming "somebodies", which just makes Bel even more distressed by the behaviour of Phoebe and Henry - they don't seem to understand propriety. Phoebe's beginnings were as the half-sister of the Moorhouses, the daughter of a Highland tinker. She has grown up into a beautiful and elusive creature of the world, and is drawn away from Glasgow.