This is a great book from beginning to end. Charity Stratton the main character of the book, was the oldest child of three others, Prudence, Tobias, and James. Her mother was very cold and nothing but a drill sargeant, piling all of the responsibility on her with the kids and everything else. And, that not being the least of it, her father Reverend Stratton was nothing but a hypocrite. Preaching all about terrible sins to the people at his church on Sunday, and then molesting Charity every night in her room. This went on for years until finally one day,the house was on fire, and getting her siblings out in the nick of time, but unable to reach her parents, they both died in the fire.
The four children are then placed into foster care with Lou and Geoff, wonderful parents. Charity went to leave the home shortly though as she was old enough to work. Her grandmother and Uncle Stephen took her in. They had a huge mansion, Studley Prior where they needed an extra pair of hands. Grandmother Pennycuick was kind enough to Charity, but Stephen had an instant hate-on for the girl.
Things did not go well there with Uncle Stephen of course, so Charity moved on to other places some of which, were pretty horrible conditions. She meets Hugh later on and becomes pregnant with his child. Of course Hugh left her before even knowing she was pregnant at all, and Charity's whole life was shattered. She moved into a place for single expecting mothers, and this was the place where she meets her forever friends, Rita and Dorothy. These girls all give their babies up for adoption and try to move on with a new life, which they do after much grief.
Charity meets John Marsh, whom she falls in love with all over again, and he gets her past the grief over her experience. She goes into business in promotions and needs to start from the bottom up, having a tough time of it at first. Rita and Dorothy become her working partners and life is good for awhile until more tragic events happen later on.
Prudence, Tobias, and James have been at Lou and Geoff's foster home until the evil Uncle Stephen demands custody of them. This is not good, and as Grandma Pennycuick becomes ill, the house is in deplorable condition as Prudence can't do it all, and hates being a slave to grandma. They both do. So it is at this time that she finally reaches Charity for urgent help and when Charity arrives at the cold stark mansion, she finds nothing but terrible conditions there. She hangs on awhile until her grandmother dies, and the kids come back to live with Charity in her flat. Once back there, she finds out that Toby of course is doing drugs quite heavily and has another problem on her hands.
When Toby gets in deep trouble with drugs it puts Charity in great danger. The story has a sad, yet happy ending in some ways as Charity continues to triumph over tragedy in her life further on. Her godsend was meeting Robert, the man who lived with Hugh way back and always liked Charity since the beginning. He saved her life in more ways than one.