It is 1920 in the Derbyshire dales. The Ryan family are adjusting to life now that the war is over. Walter has returned home a broken man and so it falls to his son and daughter, Josh and Emily, to keep the family candle-making business going.
It turns out that it is Emily who is best equipped to forge a career but, as time goes on, problems and even dangers arise that the Ryan family could not possibly have foreseen.
Rose and Myrtle Sylvester look up to their older sister, Peggy. She is the sensible, reliable one in the household of women headed by their grandmother, Grace Booth, and their mother, Mary Sylvester. When war is declared in 1939 they must face the hardships together and huge changes in their lives are inevitable. For Rose, there is the chance to fulfil her dream of becoming a clippie on Sheffield's trams like Peggy. But for Myrtle, the studious, clever one in the family, war may shatter her ambitions.
When the tram on which Peggy is a conductress is caught in a bomb blast, she bravely helps to rescue her passengers. One of them is a young soldier, Terry Price, and he and Peggy begin courting. They meet every time he can get leave, but eventually Terry is posted abroad and she hears nothing from him. Worse still, Peggy must break the devastating news to her family that she is pregnant.
The shock waves that ripple through the family will affect each and every one of them and life will never be the same again.
Kathy Burton longs to escape the drudgery of her life as an unpaid labourer on her father’s farm. With only the local church choir and the occasional dance at the village hall for amusement, she yearns for the bright lights. Spurning Morry Robinson’s proposal of marriage, Kathy goes to live in the city with his aunt, Jemima Robinson. In turn, she finds employment for Kathy in a department store, but is anxious when Kathy is captivated by the sophisticated and handsome floor manager, Tony Kendall.
‘He has a reputation,’ the outspoken Jemima warns her. ‘He’s had more girl friends than I’ve got shoes in my closet.’
Kathy has fallen deeply and irrevocably in love and, even when the country is plunged into war, she can see no obstacle to their future. But she has reckoned without the devious mind of Tony’s invalid mother, Beatrice Kendall.
‘You’ll never marry my son,’ she vows. ‘I’ll see to that.’
Determined that the possessive woman won’t win, Kathy plans her wedding, but the day is ruined and Tony is called up before another date can be arranged. Feeling deserted, Kathy is forced to face yet further heartache and shame alone. At last, she finds solace in joining a concert party entertaining service men and woman and war workers. But behind the songs and the smiles, her heart is breaking . .
Flame-haired Jeannie Buchanan has spent all her life in the shadow of the dark North Sea. Working with freezing fingers to gut the precious herring, she follows the fleet south, travelling far away from her Scottish home.
When her beloved father's trawler goes missing, Jeannie must face up to life on her own. But her fiery temper and fierce independence attract powerful and devious enemies.
By standing up to the Hayes-Gorton family, she could be threatening the future of those she cares for most. By denying a man prepared to sacrifice all his privileges for a chance to offer his devotion, she could be facing years of unhappiness. Amidst the great social upheaval of the inter-war years, Jeannie must search again for the real love she has always denied herself . . .
Fleur Bosley didn't believe in love at first sight, at least not until she bumped into Robbie Rodwell on a railway station in the blackout of wartime Britain. Posted to a newly-built Lincolnshire airfield, Robbie as a wireless operator on bombers and Fleur as a R/T operator in the watch office, their only escape is to the little cottage in the nearby village where Fleur is billeted with another WAAF, Ruth. The two girls become good friends, but Ruth, already hurt by the loss of one of the pilots, does not approve of wartime romances.
And Ruth is not the only one to disapprove. When Fleur's mother hears Robbie's name she becomes hysterical and bans him from her home. The young couple are determined to grab their happiness where they can, but is it a kind Fate or a cruel one that has brought them together when secrets from the past threaten their future?
Away from their families, there is fun and laughter, the aircrews determined to make the most of every day, every minute, but whenever they fly off into the night on a bombing raid, Fleur must keep watch until the early hours praying that Robbie's plane comes back . . .
Neighbours Edie Kelsey and Lil Horton have been friends for over twenty years, sharing the joys and sorrows of a tough life as the wives of fishermen in Grimsby. So it was no surprise that their children were close and that Edie's son, Frank, and Lil's daughter, Irene, would fall in love and marry at a young age.
But the declaration of war in 1939 changed everything. Frank went off to fight, and Irene and baby, Tommy, along with Edie's youngest son are sent to the countryside for safety. With Edie's husband, Archie, fishing the dangerous waters in the North Sea and daughter Beth in London doing 'important war work', Edie's family is torn apart.
Friendship sustains Edie and Lil, but tragedy follows and there's also concern that Beth seems to have disappeared. But it is Irene's return, during the VE day celebrations, that sends shock waves through the family and threatens to tear Edie and Lil's friendship apart forever.
Meg Kirkland fears her impudent tongue has caused her father's dismissal from his job and forced her whole family from their home on Middleditch Farm. Worse still, her father abandons them outside the workhouse, leaving Meg to care for her devastated mother, Sarah, and little brother as tragedy continues to haunt the family.
Isaac Pendleton, Master of the workhouse, rules the lives of all those within its walls but when Sarah becomes his latest mistress, Meg is disgusted. Her loyal friend, Jake, born and bred in the workhouse, has a maturity and understanding beyond his years. Yet it is Meg's fiery independence that encourages Jake to leave the workhouse and seek employment on Middleditch Farm. His future is assured, but who will take care of Meg? The pretty, vivacious girl, once so innocent, becomes a calculating and manipulative young woman who will stop at nothing to get her own way even if it means betraying those she has loved.
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