Overwrought but appealing melodrama set sometime after WWI in Tyneside.
Annie Hannigan, a sensitive girl who dreams of becoming a nun, is aghast to discover that a convent schoolmate, Cathleen Davidson, has been telling tales about her: specifically, that her mother, Kate Hannigan, isn't really married to her stepfather, Dr. Rodney Prince; and that Annie herself is illegitimate. Kate advises her daughter to ignore the malicious gossip (even though Annie had indeed been born on the wrong side of the blanket) and assures her that a civil marriage ceremony is perfectly legal, no matter what Father Bailey says. Happy at last (and pregnant again), Kate has no way of knowing that beautiful Cathleen is bent on wrecking the lives of so many innocent people: Terence MacBane, the poor but intelligent young man educated at Oxford, with whom Annie falls in love; Steve, the brawny chauffeur who's ensnared by Cathleen's seductive wiles; Michael Davidson, Cathleen's brother, who's sent to Canada to keep him away from his evil sister's machinations; husband Rodney, who's beginning to believe the rumors Cathleen spread about Kate's putative love affair with Steve (see above: brawny chauffeur); and even Father Bailey, the beleaguered priest who tries to keep lovelorn Annie from entering the convent after she discovers Cathleen's nude sketches of Terence and Terence's rambling journal notations about love in general and his feelings for Cathleen in particular. Distraught, Annie clambers down a seaside cliff to drown herself, but Terence snaps out of his post-grad fog and rescues her in a dramatic finale, while Cathleen awaits her comeuppance.
Another breathlessly paced, emotionally charged tale for fans of the late Cookson (1906–98).