Annie Byrne was born during one of the worst winters Lancashire ever remembered. When the doctor finally got through the nine-foot drifts of snow, mother and daughter were in a pretty bad way, but both the new-born Annie and her exhausted mother - a spinner in the cotton mill - were fighters, tough and determined not to let the world knock them down.
They needed to be tough, for when Annie's father was killed in the war, Nancy married again. And Eddie Higson - once he'd courted and won Nancy Byrne - turned into a nightmare of a man, terrorizing the young girl with one secret evil after another.
She had two friends who helped her through these bad years. Martin Cullen, rough, uneducated, loyal, who knew he wasn't good enough for her, and David Pritchard, the doctor who had supported her through the worst times and who had bad problems of his own.
Together they watched her grow into a beautiful young woman, desperately fighting the legacy of her childhood.