The story is set in one decade of the late 19th century. The story begins with a murder and a family down on it's luck, a brother, two sisters and a very sick young child. This is an often described tale of hardship overcome by hard work and lucky breaks, set in the midlands rather than the north. Just when Nessie thinks things cannot get any worse, her brother cannot work, her sister is out all hours, she finds work. There are a very good mix of characters, some sympathetic and helpful, some self centred, some downright nasty. The central characters are one working class family and one rich family. Although the story is quite predictable it is well written and fast flowing. Well worth a read.