The heroine is Agnes Conway who is the daughter of a man who owns a guest house, confectioners shop and smoke shop. Agnes, like all of Catherine Cookson’s heroines is a very strong woman. Agnes (Aggie) is twenty-two and a little bored with life. Until she can figure out what to do with her life she helps her father run the confectioner’s shop.
Aggie’s parents are in a loveless marriage. They sleep in separate bedrooms because Aggie’s mother will not allow her husband to touch her. There is a secret within the marriage that comes out as the storyline progress.
One night Aggie overhears what the secret is about her father and the next morning the atmosphere is strained during breakfast.
Aggie’s sister Jessie gets romantically involved with a young man named Robbie Felton who is from the “other side of the tracks” and not considered worthy by their father.
Jessie is not careful and she becomes pregnant by Robbie. Robbie is a good decent man though and so is his family. Robert loves Jessie and wants to marry her as soon as possible.
Jessie confides in Aggie about her pregnancy. Their parents find out and all heck breaks loose. Their father will not allow Jessie to marry Robbie.
Charles Farrier is madly in love with Aggie. Aggie admits that she loves Charles but her mind is preoccupied with Jessie’s predicament. Charles explains to Aggie how she can help her sister get away and marry Robbie.
Charles wants Aggie to meet his brother Reginald (Reggie) and here is where the storyline gets even more interesting.
The threesome have tea together and Reggie is delighted by Aggie. He recognizes that Aggie is very intelligent and that there is no pretense about her. Aggie is down to earth and well-mannered too.
Reggie and Charles are sons of wealthy landowners. Their parents are still mentally living in the 19th century and class difference is very important to them. Both men know that their parents will see Aggie as merely a shop girl and beneath them for a daughter-in-law. Reggie is supportive of Charles wanting to marry Aggie. Reggie even understands why Charles is so smitten with Aggie and doesn’t blame him one bit. Charles asks Reggie to help him convince Aggie to go ahead with their plans to marry, which he does.
World war two breaks out and Reginald is on the war front which changes him. Charles does not enlist, but instead is a writer and insists on living his life the way he chooses.
Reggie returns from the war a wingless bird and even more passionate.