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Set against a backdrop of the Yorkshire moors, the mills and the Great War, 'Heartsease' is the story of one woman's strength and determination to overcome and prevail against all odds. Orphaned at the age of ten, Lily Anderson and her two young sisters are brought by their adoptive aunt to live on the moors above the West Riding mill town of Sowerby Bridge. Her aunt's home, 'Heartsease', becomes Lily's refuge and she and her sisters adapt well to their new lives. Lily forms a close bond with Rachel Whitaker, the local doctor's daughter who like her has had a troubled life. Rachel lives in constant fear of her mentally unstable mother, Helen, and Lily's friendship becomes an important part of her life. The trauma inflicted on Lily in her young life rises to the surface as she grows into womanhood. She finds herself unable to express her love for her sweetheart, Arthur Bowen, and turns to Rachel's father Edward for love and support. Edward, tortured with guilt over his wife's untimely death and a shattered affair, finds succour in Lily's devotion. Eventually, with Edward's help, Lily is able to overcome the horror of her childhood and she and Arthur marry.
However, their hopes and dreams for their future suffer a setback when Arthur is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and he is forced to abandon the work he loves. Although beset with the constant worry of her husband's deteriorating health, Lily never fails to provide love and support for him and her family. Her younger sister, Sarah, looks to her for consolation on her return from France nursing the young casualties of the Great War, and her youngest sister, Ellen, deaf from childhood, has a special bond with Lily and her family. Lily's three sons give her strength and optimism to face the future as Arthur's health suffers one setback after the other until he is confined to a wheelchair totally dependent on his wife's care, and when, on the eve of his twenty first birthday, their middle son Jack mysteriously vanishes Lily's life is thrown into despair. Arthur dies never knowing the circumstances of his son's disappearance, but Lily clings to the hope that one day Jack will return. Soon after his father's death, Frank, her eldest marries, and Lily's 'baby', her youngest Harold, embarks on a high powered career.
Just as Lily is coming to terms with the prospect of living alone someone from her past comes back into her life, giving her the opportunity of returning to 'Heartsease'. Lily knows that there she will once again find true happiness.