The Victorian Sabbath was not without problems for some of those committed to its strict observance. Nancy Ann Hazel, the young and high-spirited daughter of a country parson, suffered from her father’s lengthy Sunday sermons. The autumn sunshine beckoned her into the fields and along the bank of the river that wound its way through this pleasant corner of County Durham. This area was dominated by the neighbouring estates of two very different landowners: Graham Mercer, the reclusive lord of the manor, and Dennison Harpcore of Rossburn House, where life was lived on the grand scale and reputed to be more than a little dissolute.
Two older brothers had taught Nancy Ann how to look after herself well enough, and she could hold her own with the roughest of the village children. But soon she had to muster her courage and fortitude to the full when the far greater challenges of a controversial marriage thrust her into womanhood and into a whole new world of conflict and tragedy which had to be faced and overcome.