1891. Victorian England. In the small country town of Croome where the local lead mine is losing money, the year begins with a tragic drowning.
Recently arrived in Croome the new vicar, Matthew Rolfe, has escaped the tragedy of his past and hopes to lose himself in the pleasant if almost unending task of compiling a comprehensive local Flora. But life in Croome won’t be as uneventful as he’d thought, and he is gradually drawn into a tight tangle of forbidden love and passion involving two celibate young priests, both of whom have secrets, a ‘modern woman’ and her husband. A local girl falls pregnant and marries hastily. Another is told she has to marry a man twice her age.
When one of the girls goes missing Rolfe finds himself suspected of, at best, her disappearance and at worst her death.