It is 1956, and Lizzy is working in Soho when Peace comes to stay. Peace is a beautiful 16-year-old part-Chinese girl, the daughter - it turns out - of her employer Bandy Bunion's estranged sister. Peace has been at a boarding school in the country - but, tired of feeling lonely and of being bullied, she has run away, and does not intend to go back. Lizzy, who lives above the nightclub run by Bandy and Sugarplum Flaherty, offers to take her in; she lost her own daughter - Rosie's best friend - to leukaemia two years previously and she feels a special bond with Peace.
A rags-to-riches story with a delightfully original spin, Not All Tarts Are Apple is narrated by seven-year-old Rosie, who grows up in a cafe in 1950s Soho, watched over by her eagle-eyed Auntie Maggie and Uncle Bert, and visited on occasions by her mother, the mysterious, and often drunk, Perfumed Lady. But it soon transpires that the Perfumed Lady's family - landed gentry who hail from a country estate near Bath - are desperate to get their hands on Rosie, and will stop at nothing - even kidnap - to acquire her.
It is 1945, and all over England people are looking forward to being at peace again. Except for one woman. For recently married Zelda, peace means the return of her husband, and this is bad news indeed. Zelda has had to marry Charlie Fluck because she was pregnant by him. And the Fluck clan are backed by the unsavoury Holes, at the centre of whose criminal empire sits Ma Hole like a large malevolent toad. Not only is Zelda frightened of her husband - and she has reason to be, having lost her baby due to a bad "fall" when Charlie pushed her down the stairs.