It was a rather nasty day in winter when Marcia decided that the time had come to go up onto Dartmoor and think about the settings for this book. Here she is on Saddle Bridge which crosses the O Brook. To the right is the blackthorn tree. Although in entirely the wrong place, it was this bridge that inspired the Blackthorn Bridge in the book.
Phyllida Makepeace finds it impossible to carry on with her marriage to submarine captain Alistair as if nothing has happened when she discovers that he has been unfaithful. Quentin Halliwell (Oliver Wivenhoe’s godfather) and his wife Clemmie live in a old stone house in the middle of Dartmoor and, as old age approaches, are beginning to wonder for how long they can stay there.
Claudia Maynard seems to be happily married to Jeff, an accountant who, much to her surprise, had decided to leave Sussex and take a job in Tavistock – a move that means that Claudia can no longer pursue her own career as a dress designer. Phyllida agrees to move in to look after Quentin and Clemmie. Oliver now down from university meets Phyllida and falls in love with her. Claudia discovers that her husband is gay when he leaves her to look after his lover who is dying of AIDS. Liz Whelan’s recently widowed Uncle (Unk) comes to stay who, bored with life and inspired by one of Liz’s friends (also a single parent) who makes children’s clothes, decides to start a business making clothing based on Thea’s parrot stories. He employs Oliver as manager and, after advertising for a designer, Claudia.
When Quentin dies and Clemmie’s unsympathetic son wishes to sell the house and put his mother into a home, it is Alistair, now re-united with Phyllida and about to retire from the navy, who provides the solution.