On the eve of 1939, twenty-year-old Bess Dudley leaves the library at Foxden Hall and encounters James Foxden.
James is the heir to the Foxden Estate, Bess the daughter of the head groom. Bess is a scholarship girl, lodging at Mrs McAllister’s boarding house while training in London to become a teacher. She has the brains, the determination and the ambition to transcend barriers of class and gender.
With offers of a teaching job in London and Lowarth in Leicestershire, Bess opts for Lowarth in order to be near James who has joined the RAF and is stationed locally. When she learns that James is engaged to Annabel Hadleigh, (who is his social equal) Bess returns to London, to her first teaching post and to good friends. Within a few weeks an encounter with a rapist changes her life, and takes away hopes of love forever.
War breaks out and London’s schoolchildren are evacuated. Bess leaves her job and returns to Foxden, at James’s request. While James trains to be an RAF bomber pilot at a nearby airfield, Bess turns Foxden Acres into arable land with the help of an Army of Land Girls.
Soon the Blitz is setting London aflame. The Midlands too is scarred by war: conflict in the air increases and Polish airmen crash land in a Foxden field. Bess’s brother escapes from Dunkirk. While he recovers in a hospital in Kent, he meets and falls in love with Annabel Hadleigh.
On a visit to London Bess finds her old lodgings blitzed to rubble and Mrs McAllister missing. Bess persuades her homeless housemates, and the children of Jewish friends, to leave London for the safety of Foxden.
Traditional social barriers come crashing down when Flying Officer James Foxden falls in love with Bess.