When Alice, a divorcee of five years, discovers a photograph among her late father’s possessions, she wants to know more. Her father’s handwriting tells her that the girl in the picture is her great-great-grandmother. The child on her knee, her son.
Set in the county of Lancashire, and in two time periods, the story of the girl in the picture, Mary Ellen, is of her time in domestic servitude. The contemporary story is an evolving love story between Alice and a genealogist, Duncan.
The story that unfolds in the past is one of Mary Ellen’s youthful dreams and fantasies, and the harsh realities of life where poverty and sexual tensions are a feature of daily life. When she meets the heir to the estate, a young earl with a playboy approach to life, she is drawn into a world of Victorian erotica. He is supported in this by his sister, a disturbed woman suffering the effects of long-term drug misuse, and who has a life-long incestuous fixation with her handsome older brother.
When Mary Ellen succumbs to his charms and falls pregnant, she is delighted; her dreams of living in luxury are coming true. But the earl is a rogue; his interest in the girl is to use her. Yet she subtly attracts him, and softens his intentions towards her.
In the present day, as Duncan Cooper and Alice unravel Mary Ellen’s story, they find themselves being slowly drawn together into an intimate relationship of their own. Theirs is a story of grief, uncertainty and indecision dispelled by a slowly growing love for each other and shared appetites.