In a small village in the West Country a child is born: a baby girl, the fifth child of an impoverished labourer whose aspirations to be a painter are rapidly fading. For little Blanche the future would appear bleak -- survival, possibly; marriage, possibly; drudgery certainly. It is by a stroke of good -- and ill -- fortune that Blanche?s mother is requested at the ?big house?, to suckle Marianne, the motherless daughter of John Savill whose wife has died in childbirth. And it is by good and ill fortune that the two babies, so different in their hopes, are brought up together caring for each other as sisters. But sisters they are not -- as the outside world is keen to point out. Blanche is torn between her love for her real mother and her desire for a life of wealth and ease; and when her eyes alight on Gentry, Marianne?s intended husband, her struggle against selfishness is compounded. In this original and vivid saga, Jess Foley weaves a tale of passion and pain against a background of unsentimentalized rural England.