In the shadow of the Althorpe mills, the Myrtle Street residents endure cramped and often verminous conditions.
Joe Duffy, a Bolton tradesman, strives to lift his family out of the 'garden' streets. But as more children are born, Joe's wife Tess sinks deeper into the obsession that will be her undoing. When Tess screams her belief that the area is cursed, few people heed her ravings. She is ignored, even as the Myrtle Street tragedies become more frequent and begin to feature in local gossip.
It is left to Megan, the third Duffy child - the one who felt she was unworthy and unloved because she had been born a girl - to end the curse. When she becomes embroiled in a web of deceit, Megan needs all her strength, talents, and wit in order to survive. But it is her capacity to give love that ensures her family's stability, the future of the Althorpe cotton mills, and the safekeeping of the Hall i' the Vale.