As the story begins, Bridget Mordaunt has inherited a blacking factory and a candle factory from her father. Contrary to the typical young Victorian woman, she decides to run the factories herself. An overseer in the blacking factory, Joe Skinner, is accused of killing his brother. Bridget has always liked Joe and doesn't believe he could have done it. However all the evidence seems to point to him, and he will say nothing to defend himself. When he is executed, Bridget takes in his widow Lily and her son Joseph. It was well known that Lily was pregnant by another man before she married Joe. She will not reveal the father.
On Bridget's homefront, her very pretty, traditional cousin Victoria has fallen in love with Lionel Filmore. Lionel is ready to drop Victoria when he finds out she unlike Bridget is not rich. To spare Victoria heartbreak, Bridget secretly makes a settlement with Lionel so he will go through with the wedding.
These early actions have a profound impact on Bridget, Victoria, Lily, their children and grandchildren. Bridget and Victoria become estranged when Victoria finds out about the money arrangement. She suffers in a miserable marriage and has a handicapped child. Bridget meanwhile, marries Lionel's brother Douglas. Lily's deathbed revelation to Joe about his father's identity, and Douglas's discovery of the truth behind the murder prompt Joe on a journey to understand his past. He marries Amy, Bridget's daughter. It is a struggle for them to overcome the influence of the past on their relationship and family.
This report prepared by Susan Coffey