Seventeen-year-old Ruth Hardy works long hours at Grange Paper Works, with her younger sister Bea. When Bea reveals that she is pregnant out of wedlock, Ruth knows even tougher times are ahead. Ruth's hard work at the mill does not go unnoticed and it looks as though their luck might turn when she's promoted. When the arrival of Bea's baby girl ends in tragedy, Ruth is left with no choice but to bring up her niece herself. Although Ruth's friendship with the girls at the mill, and the company of charming railway man, Mick Carson, sustain her, ultimately Ruth bears the responsibility for keeping her family safe. Will she ever find happiness of her own?