Margaret Hale returns home to her family in the rural south of England, after living with a wealthy aunt for 10 years, learning how to become a proper young woman. She is not home for long before her life is uprooted and her family moves to a town called Milton, in Northern England, where her father intends to be a tutor, leaving their Pastoral life, and the Church of England behind.
One of Mr. Hale's pupils, Mr. Thornton, runs the cotton mill and has taken a keen interest in Margaret, who is disgusted by the amount of poverty around Milton and, also, by the way Mr. Thornton treats his employees. Although an uprising is brooding and Margaret sympathizes with the workers, she starts to become fond of Thornton and his ambition after living for 18 months in Milton.
Margaret is surrounded by tragedy and loss from her family's ailing health, and a secret she must never reveal. Her societal upbringing in the south begins to clash with the northern poverty and her morals are beginning to shift and polarize. When more death starts to intrude on Margaret's life, she leaves Milton to return south to her Aunt where Margaret learns of a fortunate change of circumstance awaiting her that changes everything, including her relationship with Mr. Thornton.