Dr John Falconer, recently appointed partner to old Cornwallis, is invited to a garden party at Pine Hurst, seat of the local lord of the manor. It is an occasion arranged to celebrate the twenty-first birthday of Simon Steel's eldest daughter Beatrice, who introduces him to her sisters, Marion, Helen and the youngest, seventeen-year-old Rosie, who takes it upon herself to conduct him around the extensive grounds of the house. In a moment of indiscretion, she lets slip her true feelings about Beatrice who, she says, has always been over-possessive about Pine Hurst and, since the death of their mother, has become insufferably dominating. At that time, even though she was then only in her 'teens, Beatrie had taken over the running of the house and now she ruled her father and the servants with an iron hand. What was particularly frustrating for Rosie, who could see no end to the tyranny, was that no man had so far shown any willingness to marry Beatrice and thus deflect her from the object of her passion. As for Beatrice herself, her wanderings about the house and grounds convince her that no-one could ever take the place of her most prized possession - although she constantly
Catherine Cookson was born in Tyne Dock, the illegitimate daughter of a poverty-stricken woman, Kate, whom she believed to be her older sister. She began work in service but eventually moved south to Hastings, where she met and married Tom Cookson, a local grammar-school master. Although she was originally acclaimed as a regional writer - her novel The Round Tower won the Winifred Holtby Award for the best regional novel of 1968 - her readership quickly spread throughout the world, and her many best-selling novels established her as one of the most popular of contemporary women novelists. After receiving an OBE in 1985, Catherine Cookson was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1993. She was appointed an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford, in 1997. For many years she lived near Newcastle upon Tyne. She died shortly before her ninety-second birthday, in June 1998.