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Twenty-two years ago Emma Grady was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to transportation. Bound for Australia, she bore and lost her baby daughter - a child conceived during her passionate affair with Marlow Tanner.
It is now 1885, and Emma has returned to Lancashire, to her home town of Blackburn. Reunited with Marlow, she has a beautiful home, a loving husband, and a wonderful son. Yet Emma is still haunted by the past, unable to forget how her uncle Caleb Crowther ignored her desperate plea to save herself and her tragic first-born.
A feared local justice, Crowther curses his niece's return. And not content with his efforts to destroy Emma, he also hounds Molly, her estranged daughter. Born to a life of crime and poverty, and deserted by her irresponsible husband, Molly tries desperately to keep her three children fed and clothed. When Emma starts looking for her, and Molly wrongly fears that it is Crowther who is searching her out, Molly and her three children run away to become vagabonds. Contending with hunger, exhaustion and the unwelcome attentions of the men who are drawn to Molly's dark beauty, their life at times is almost unbearable. But Molly has inherited Emma's indomitable spirit...