Iris, Marianne, Eva and Clemency are the daughters of Sheffield manufacturer, Joshua Maclise. In the tumultuous years before the First World War, the sisters seek to fulfil their ambitions. Pretty, self-centred Iris dreams of a grand marriage, quiet Marianne meets the love of her life, and passionate Eva longs for independence. Only Clemency, caring for her invalid mother, remains tied to the family home.
Years pass and, her hopes of marriage dashed, Iris becomes a nurse in a London hospital. Marianne, living on a tea estate in Ceylon, finds first her happiness and then her life threatened by a cruel and ruthless man. When Eva falls in love with the Bohemian, Gabriel Bellamy, her dreams of a career as an artist falter. As the clouds darken and war changes the lives of all the sisters, Clemency fights to free herself from the bonds that confine her and to discover love at last.