Russia proves a cruel land to Anne Corby: her mother perishes in the wild savagery of the steppes, and Anne herself is left pregnant with an illegitimate child, result of a brutal rape. She flees with nothing but a mysterious talisman, wrapped in a black velvet cloth, in which the peace of nations resides.
But a return to Darlaston holds no sanctuary. For it is home to Anne's aunt Clara, who sees the girl's bastard as a threat to her ownership of Glebe Metalworks.
As war clouds gather, Clara resolves to remove the usurper by fair means or foul, and enlists her depraved son Quenton in her evil plan. Can Anne save her child? And can she survive her heritage of shame?
Taking the turbulent years of the First World War as her backdrop, Meg Hutchinson has woven a dramatic tale of adventure, and a captivating story of courage and resilience in the face of tragedy and heartache.