London, 1940. The war is raging across Europe, and 23-year-old Grace is devastated by the loss of her husband, Brian, at Dunkirk after only a year of marriage. Her secretary job at a law firm keeps her mind from dwelling on her sorrow, but when her boss, James, enlists in the air force Grace is left without work. Alongside her best friend, Helen, the Grace joins the War Office in a move that will change their lives forever.
"Not bad but not great"
The three Bentley children are used to fending for themselves. Their widowed mother has been forced to take a night job at Grant's clothing factory and sees them only at breakfast and on Sundays. But at nearly 18, with a job of her own, Dora is well able to look after her younger siblings. Then one morning their mother fails to appear for breakfast.
Britain is at war and Ruth, a gifted pilot, is determined to join the Air Transport Auxiliary. Over in America, Jack and Lucy Nelson, are also keen to join. After a perilous journey by sea, Jack is posted to White Waltham, where he quite literally bumps into Ruth.
After a traumatic past, life finally seems to be looking up for Hanna Foster. But war is on its way... London, 1938. Hanna and Jack Foster had been sent to an orphanage when their parents were killed in a train crash, but were separated when a couple adopted Jack. Bullied and treated like a slave, it soon became clear it was a dreadful mistake. In desperation, Jack takes his future into his own hands and runs away to join the merchant navy, while Hanna takes a job looking after two children. For a time, life seems good, but war is looming and threatens to take away everything Hanna holds dear...
Queenie Bonner is only two when she is taken from her large family in the slums to a big house in the country. Frightened and confused, she yearns for her nine brothers and sisters, especially her favourite brother, Harry. Albert and Mary Warrender rename her Eleanor, bringing her up as their own, and as time passes, Ellie forgets about her other family.
London, 1920. When 14-year-old Victoria Keats is thrown out of her home by her violent father, it seems likely she will starve until two strangers provide her with no-strings-attached help. As Vicki's life improves, she can't help but fixate on the mystery of these good Samaritans, but tracking them down may be more life changing than she thinks.
Hampshire, 1850. Under the watchful eyes of her guardian, Lord Edward Sharland, and an excellent estate manager, Beth Langton has been running her large family estate. After a week away, terrible news is waiting for her. The father of her best friend, Lady Helen Denton, has shot himself, leaving Helen destitute. Beth persuades Helen to live with her, although too proud to take charity, Helen insists she work as a paid companion. The girls soon settle happily together, but further tragedy awaits.
1919, London's East End. Robert Hunter is eagerly awaiting the return of his father from the war. Next door, Ruth Cooper's family are also preparing to welcome her dad, whose ship was lost at Jutland. After five years of separation and anxiety – and, for Bob, the worry of caring for his frail mother – emotions are running high for both young people.
As World War II breaks out, four friends from London’s East End consider the changes that war will mean for all of them. Tomboyish Becky Adams plans to join the ATS, her neighbours Bob and Jim the navy and army respectively. Only Becky’s brother, Will, is left out of the excitement; because of a slight physical disability, he is forced to stay behind, working as a cub reporter on a newspaper.
"Not my cup of tea!"
When the Second World War breaks out, Annie Webster and her family find themselves, along with everyone else, thrust into a world of uncertainty, danger, and despair. Her brothers join up, her sweetheart, Paul, becomes a fighter pilot, and Annie, desperate to help, finds herself in the WAAF, where her intelligence and warmth single her out for a role more daring than she has ever known. The country has never needed its young people more, but will Annie and her loved ones survive its darkest hour?
Amy Carter is just 14 when she leaves school to look after her sick mother. But she is left all alone when her father is hanged for murder and her mother dies shortly after. Shunned even by her former friends, she is rescued by artist Benjamin Scott, who met Amy just once, read about the family's difficulties, and tracked her down. He takes the girl to his lodgings, where Amy, with Ben, his fellow housemates, and his kindly landlady, finds a real home for the first time.
All her short life, 11-year-old Rose Webster has encountered closed doors. Growing up in the slums of London with her siblings, trying to avoid their violent, drunken father, she develops an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and becomes convinced that she and her loved ones deserve better. All Rose has is a quick mind and the will to survive. Can she open that door and seize the chance to make something of herself?
In 1960, Kate Freeman, daughter of the inimitable Rose Webster, goes to London to follow her dream of becoming a photographer. But Kate has a long journey to take before she can realise her ambition. The era that was dubbed "a time of peace" proves to be anything but, as Kate's family and friends cope with tragedy, upheaval, and the tears and laughter of family life. The comfort of loved ones and the support of friends goes a long way.
In the aftermath of war, Angie Westwood thinks the hard times are behind her. But when her cousin Jane dies at the tender age of 20, leaving behind a three-year-old son and an unresolved mystery over his father's identity, her life changes beyond all expectations. Angie immediately adopts Danny and decides to bring him up as her own, but is torn between a desire to trace his father and her fear of losing him to this unknown man.
Eugenie Winford is devastated when her beloved father commits suicide, having lost his fortune in the Wall Street Crash. Now Eugenie and her proud, spoilt mother are ruined. Eugenie changes her name and goes into hiding as a housemaid for the Stannard family - anything is better than what her mother has planned for her. But her real identity is soon revealed, and Jen has to flee again. She ends up in Lambeth, with a poor but good family, and together they face the hardships of the Depression.
London, 1899. As she prepares for a glittering ball, 20-year-old Gertrude Melrose considers her good fortune. Attractive, intelligent, with a loving family, her only concern is her brother, Edward, who seems intent on squandering his inheritance. A few days later the Melrose family's happiness is shattered when Edward's mounting debts threaten to destroy their prosperity, with the loss of both house and business.