Sophie and Lydia Westlake have always been close, and think of each other as sisters, despite the fact that they are really cousins. Sophie has always been the prettier, more light-hearted younger sister, whilst Lydia has grown up in her shadow, and is more serious and reserved. But until dashing young architect Christian Mellor arrives in town on the day of the annual summer fete, their differences had never mattered.
When Tim and Sue Marshall take in a local boarding school boy on their farm, they watch as the shy, bespectacled Quentin changes beyond recognition. As the years go by there are big changes for everyone, Sue sees her family growing up and realizes that things can never stay the same.
Cynny Barlow is just eighteen when she falls helplessly in love with the dashing Ralph Clinton, an ambitious and talented actor visiting her home town for the summer. However, when Ralph is talent-spotted by a film producer, he puts everything behind him and leaves for the big time, with no idea that Cynny is already pregnant. Whilst her daughter Suzie is a toddler, Cynny can see no way out of her life of drudgery, working at the grocer's during the day, and as a barmaid in the evenings to make ends meet.
Since the death of her parents when she was three years old, Anna Bartlett has lived with her grandfather and his housekeeper at Dunsford House. Growing up in the remote countryside of the Berkshire Downs, Anna leads a sheltered life and has few friends her own age. So when she meets the dashing Theo Sullivan, she naturally falls for his charming ways. Shy and naive, Anna falls hopelessly in love with Theo.
In the halcyon days of the 1930s Sebastian Kilbride, a screen idol, and Nick Kennedy, his accountant and financial adviser are close friends, enjoying an almost idyllic lifestyle. The lives of their wives and families are intertwined. Tessa Kilbride, in contrast to her glamorous husband, is scatterbrained, warm-hearted and a homebody; Sally, Nick's efficient, well-groomed wife, is conversely a woman frustrated by domesticity.
Alex finds his mother's political ideas embarrassing; but he is determined that nothing will stand in the way of his desire to become a leading figure in the emerging field of aeronautics - neither his mother nor his growing affection for Tasmin.
In the final months of 1945, victory ceases to be a distant dream and for Rhoda Harding and many others, a feeling of hope is in the air. Rhoda is hoping for a change. Married to Alec for more than twenty-five years, she now finds herself reluctant to settle into premature middle-age. Both her daughters lead busy, fulfilling lives, whilst Rhoda feels her days are filled with dull routine. Alec is a happy man, content with his family life and successful business.