Despite a deathbed warning from her beloved mother, Phoebe Mulligan has no choice but to throw herself on the mercy of her uncle, Edward. Wrenched from all she holds dear, the tragic young girl is delivered to Blackburn town, where she must live in a household terrorised by the cold, forbidding presence of her mother's brother. Phoebe cannot understand why she is treated so harshly by Edward Dickens. She is not to know the guilty secret that lies in his past, a secret that casts a sinister shadow over his feelings for his lovely niece . . .