Hannie Bennet is a survivor of uncertain origins who has spent her life in Africa and the Far East. There aren't a lot of things she wouldn't do or hasn't done, and if a situation soured or bored her in the past she put it behind her and moved on. By the time she meets Ned Renvyle however, her assets are running distinctly low and she needs a home for herself and her son.
Ned Renvyle is an explorer, a writer, a returned Anglo-Irishman now become a farmer. He is also nearly twenty years older than Hannie and on the look-out for a wife.
A deal is done, and a marriage made against both their soberer judgements. For Ned the widower, this is a second marriage; for Hannie the experienced divorcee and now, by luck, a widow, this is a fifth. It seems a port in a storm, a chance worth taking, but Ned lives on a modest farm deep in West Waterford and the price she has to pay for his name and his home seem too high.
This novel is set in an apparently uncorrupted rural Ireland which is in fact being changed by forces as explosive as those which Hannie discovers in herself. This move from certainty to uncertainty has consequences and casualties, not least for the young painter, daughter of a local farmer, who is Hannie's nearest neighbour and her son's only confidant.