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After the horrors of the First World War, the Arndales, like so many others, must start again.

Northrop Hall itself has been turned into a rehabilitation home for returning soldiers, under the direction of Diana's tireless husband, the good doctor James Bramley. Diana is proud of James and works dutifully alongside him, but she mourns the fact that their marriage has given her no children, and that James seems more devoted to his work than he is to her.

So when Sebastian, the love of her teenage years, reappears in her life, she can't help wishing that fate had arranged things differently. Later on, pity drives Sebastian into making a disastrous marriage so it seems that there is no hope of happiness for either of them.

Meanwhile those early post-war years of the nineteen twenties are turning into the pre-war years, as the Nazis come to power in Germany in the thirties. Many believe that peace must be preserved at any price, even if it means appeasing Hitler. A few, like Sebastian, believe that war is inevitable. Before it breaks out he moves his wife and children to safety in the Yorkshire Dales. He himself is moved to London to work on building defences against the expected bombing raids. It is in the south that once more, by chance, he is reunited with Diana.

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