Portsmouth in the 1920s is a city of vivid contrasts between the comfortable and the destitute. Thousands of men have been laid off from the Royal Naval Dockyard and many are begging in the streets.
Mary Vine believes her luck has changed. After surviving her first nineteen years, fiercely defending her chaotic family against anyone who dares criticize them, she has found happiness at last with her fiance, submariner Matthew Miller. But can she survive the demands of the Vine family as she tries to build a new life? And can she and Matthew overcome their differences? Cissie Nugent has lost her position as housemaid and is surviving by selling her body to passing sailors. But she has further to fall as she is betrayed by the only person she has ever trusted.
Captain Charles Clements, once the employer of both Mary and Cissie, returns to Portsmouth after a humiliating divorce. Though a hero of Jutland, he must find a new sort of courage to face a future without his family. Soon the lives of Mary, Cissie, and Captain Clements will change in unexpected ways.