It is 1876. Nineteen-year-old orphan Esperanza Gorst arrives at the great country house of Evenwood to be interviewed for the position of Lady's Maid by the 26th Baroness Tansor, the former Miss Emily Carteret. But Esperanza is no ordinary servant. She has been sent by her guardian, the mysterious Madame de l'Orme, to uncover the dark and dangerous secrets that her new mistress has sought to conceal, and to set right a past injustice in which Esperanza's own closest interests are bound up. Gradually those secrets are revealed, and with them the truth of who Esperanza really is, forcing agonising obligations on her, and enmeshing her in a complicated web of intrigue, deceit and murder that culminates in betrayal by those she trusted most.