Defiance, ruthlessness and intrigue compete with love and loyalty in a story that moves through Yorkshire, Shetland and America in an age of marked contrast.
When Kate Swan's overbearing father demands that she obey him by marrying a man she despises, she refuses and is cast out of her comfortable home in Whitby. Fortunately, a kindly local widow is looking for a lady companion and, for the moment, Kate's future is assured.
Meanwhile in Shetland, Malcolm McFadden, heir to the Garstan Estate, disagrees with his father's plan to clear the crofters from his land and turn it over to sheep. The fate of one crofter's daughter in particular greatly troubles him, and he proposes to defy convention by marrying Rowena Murray, but she hesitates, and Malcolm leaves Shetland on his own.
When he and Kate meet, they are instantly attracted to one other, but while Kate fulfills one last obligation to her generous employer Mrs Jordan - accompanying her on a Lakeland tour - Malcolm receives the news he has long dreaded. The Highland Clearances have begun, and old loyalties draw Malcolm back to Shetland where he vanishes without trace.
Will Kate's love and determination win through, enabling her to discover what has become of Malcolm? Or will his old ties to Rowena, his first love, prove too strong, and cause Kate to regret the road she has travelled?