It’s 1925, and Kate Cameron is just sixteen when she’s taken on at a shipyard on the Clyde. Kate’s wages are needed, and her school days are over abruptly. When Kate starts attending art classes at weekends, she meets Jack Drummond, whose world is far removed from her own. But Kate’s not equipped to recognise trouble when it’s disguised by charm.
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Liz MacMillan has wanted to be a nurse ever since her baby brother died of scarlet fever but her domineering father won't allow it. With the outbreak of war, nursing becomes a patriotic duty and Liz gets her chance, together with her new friend Helen Gallagher, whose large, Irish-Catholic family provides a striking contract to the constraint of the MacMillan household. Working in Glasgow's Western Infirmary, one of the other students, Mario Rossi, touches Liz's heart.
Living in the Stationmaster's cottage at Partick, Carrie Burgess leads a charmed life, cushioned from the world of poverty surrounding it. Her only real problem is her mother, who thinks Ewen Livingstone, the railway labourer Carrie's in love with, a poor catch; Matt Campbell, a clerk, seems a much better prospect. Carrie's father dies suddenly and his wife and daughter are forced to move out of their home. Money is tight.
Grinding poverty and violence are on everyday part of life in Glasgow's slums during the 1920s. But Josie Collins, whose mother's death has left her alone with her abusive father, has a dream that she'll become a reporter for one of the city's newspapers. But then disaster strikes when Josie reaches sixteen. Forced to give up her unwanted baby, she starts a new life under her mother's maiden name.
1920s. When her father dies, Ellie Douglas has little option but to go into service. Her position takes her out of the life of Frank Rafferty - childhood friend and now a member of one of Glasgow's notorious gangs - and into the world of Evander Tait - son, heir and black sheep of the Tait household. These two men dominate Ellie's entire life. No one approves of her friendship with Evander and the bond she shares with Frank is misunderstood by everyone.
Wanting to support her family through the depression in 1930s Glasgow, Jean Logan is seduced by the glamour of the city's many palais de danse. Working as a paid dancing partner, she is taken on by the new and sophisticated Luxor and it seems that all her dreams have come true. But she soon finds herself drawn into the sinister world that lurks behind the club's dazzling façade and learns, to her own great personal cost, that not all that glitters is gold.