Maddy Kiernan knows her situation is desperate. With her parents dead, her brother Thomas is left as guardian to her and her sister Carmel, and Thomas, Maddy is all too aware, only cares about himself. When his plans to marry the daughter of the Protestant canal agent backfire Thomas takes off to Liverpool, leaving the girls to fend for themselves. Taking the momentous decision to follow their brother, Maddy leaves for Liverpool. Within days the girls are destitute, reduced to living in a cellar, their money gone. Eventually, Maddy finds work as a maid to an old lady, becoming her unpaid companion and sole beneficiary of her will. But Maddy has to promise not to marry until the woman who has rescued her and her sister dies. When Maddy meets a young seaman she realises she may have to choose between love and that promise...