The year is 1816. Napoleon has at last been defeated, but victory brings no peace to the English. The cost of war strikes deep into the country - there is a raging inflation, discharged soldiers join the ranks of the unemployed, wages tumble and the bread price soars - and hungry men are easily stirred to protest.
Amid this turbulence, Heloise and James stand guard over Morland Place - for its spirit as much as its fortunes - when a tragic accident strikes at the very heart of the family, taking one person on whom they all depend. On top of this, a devastating scandal brings the Morland name into the glare of public notoriety, so that Sophie and Rosamund are forced to learn the difference between real love and its enticing but dangerous illusion.