Dorset, 1917: If it's not enough that a girl from a good background is forced to work as a maid, Livia Carr is then violated by the master of the house and becomes pregnant. Her only course is to marry the son of the house, Richard Sangster, a World War One hero who has returned home an invalid. He is not expected to live, and he offers Livia and the child legitimacy, as well as his name and estate. Livia grows to love Richard, and his death comes as a great blow to her. Into the breach steps Livia's frist love, and Richard's friend, Denton Elliot. But will he desert her when the secret of the child's parentage is revealed to him?
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1933. Esmé Carr travels to Australia with her best friend in search of adventure. Left behind is Esmé's adolescent niece. Meggie Elliot has an imaginative and independent frame of mind, but there is mystery surrounding her birth - one she intends to unravel, despite her mother's warnings to leave the past alone. When the truth surfaces it's not what Meggie wants to hear, and Esmé must reconcile the rift between mother and daughter.
Meggie Elliot is on the brink of adulthood. Living with her aunt and uncle in London at the outbreak of World War II she's intent on going to university, then pursuing a career in law. Meggie follows her dream as best she can, knowing it's unlikely it will ever come to fruition. In a burst of patriotism she joins the WRNS to do her bit for the war effort. Sent to work in a decoding unit she meets the dangerously exhilarating young aristocrat, Nicholas Cowan, who sweeps her off her feet.