Melbourne, 1878. Verity Rainsburg, a young widow, is shocked when Christopher Downham arrives unannounced at her office and demands rent arrears for properties she believes she has inherited. When she further discovers that her late husband is alive, she finds solace in Christopher Downham’s arms, setting in motion a chain of events that hurtles them towards a final confrontation, and threatens to destroy everybody they know and love.
Bendigo, 1882. After years of working in service, Mercy Smith opens her own tea-shop in the booming mining city of Sandhurst (Bendigo). Four days after agreeing to become Merrick Peterson’s wife, her world is shattered when his mother dies and Mercy is accused of poisoning the woman. Fighting against time to prove her innocence, help comes from a surprising source and reveals the Peterson family’s shocking secret; one which threatens to end her life in a devastating bushfire.
Bendigo, 1883. Charity White is the under-cook at Colehill, a grand house on the outskirts of Sandhurst. When her friend, Mercy Smith, leaves Colehill to open a tea-house, Charity expects to become the new cook. Usurped by the violent, drunken housekeeper’s cousin, she escapes to a hidden garden and into the arms of Charles French, the gardener’s son. As her lover deserts her and her friend dies, she flees Sandhurst, pregnant and broken hearted, and totally unprepared for the shocking, life-changing events that soon follow.
Portland, 1884. Amity Jones inherits her spinster employer’s drapery establishment. Her employer’s nephew, thought long dead in the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir in Egypt, returns to Portland to claim his property. Amity is happy to return to her former position, but she is soon confronted with knowledge that all is not well with the former soldier. His loud nightmares reveal that he once had a different name and a dead wife, and as Amity finds herself falling in love with him, she is pulled into a world of intrigue that soon threatens her life.
Swan Hill, 1885. Having witnessed three murders while in service, young Patience Brown barely escapes with her life. Years later, she finds herself again challenged by desperation and fear when a man attempts to release her from an existence of near slavery. Both she and her rescuer are then forced flee for their lives when they cause the death of a secret brotherhood leader. The further north the couple head, the more Patience finds herself understanding that the desperate actions of her past will keep her from realising her desire to be with a man who has secretly loved her for years.