Like the mildly menacing Miss Bede is Staying (1983) and Gilbert's other atmospheric mystery/romances, this Victorian creeper involves clouded genealogies, unpleasant arrivals, and a heroine besieged by both misery and love. ""Sudden misgivings"" occur to orphan Hannah Medlar right away, on page two--when she and her beloved sister-in-law Zilla (wife of Hannah's brother Joseph) come upon the finale of a strange country wedding: there are no flowers or ribbons or happy guests, but only the couple, an ill elderly man and a shabbily dressed woman named Lizzie Bond. Does stolid, forbidding Lizzie know Hannah's kind sister-in-law? Do they share some terrible secret? So it seems--as Hannah overhears a cryptic conversation. And later Lizzie reappears, now widowed, as a visitor to the Medlars' home--followed by another strange guest: pale, uncommunicative orphan Jessie Willow, sent to the Medlars as the deathbed wish of a good old lady from Zilla's puzzling past. Why, broods jealous Hannah, does frail Zilla treat Jessie almost as lovingly as herself? What is the true cause of Zilla's early death, which soon follows? What dreadful knowledge does Joseph--an excessively pious, essentially good man--hide even from himself? Hannah sorts out all the mysteries while reuniting with her childhood playmates, Caroline and Adrian Rudyard. So finally, amid the seemingly doomed yet re-blooming love between Hannah and Adrian (he's poshly reared, now dirt-poor), the nasty villains here are shipped off into the far, far distance. With an entertaining string of hints and happenstances: cosy chills, backgrounded by pleasant lanes and leas.