Proud and canny, ignorant and intensely ambitious, Hannah Massey is a born ruler. Her kingdom may only be a working-class household in County Durham, but within its walls her iron will governs a predominantly male family, her word unchallengeable law. Now, in late middle age, her ambition is yet to be satisfied. She wants to see her brood living in the house where she was in service as a young girl. The apple of Hannah's eye is her pretty younger daughter, Rosie, who has just returned home after a spell in London. Rosie had gone south, so Hannah thought, to escape the passionate pursuit of a young man she had known for most of her life. Her return is shrouded in mystery and evasive responses, and when the truth does come out, Hannah's world is torn apart and her dreams are shattered.