Glasgow's Mary Tullis comes to a small Scots village in 1832--and in no time she becomes the focus of the village's hatred and fear. Why so? Because Mary, who harbors a frightful secret, is not only an outsider but also owns and reads Books--not a normal female pastime. For a while, however, Mary is slowly accepted: she does her valiant best during the plague, even joins the Election festivities. But when it becomes known that she is the author of published poems--which seem to denigrate the village--Mary becomes the target of abuse, most of it engineered by the village's ""bad"" woman, Meg Annan (whose current lover, schoolteacher Daniel, is courting Mary). And the fury of the villagers culminates in the May Burning when an effigy of Mary--created by Meg and some young people who've been disastrously playing with bogus magic rituals--is set on fire. But after the shock of the burning and the death of her father, Mary (who sees Daniel for the coward he is) is gradually restored by the love of the rock-ribbed, honest, kind minister Matthew. Will Mary's dreadful secret (she had borne and lost an illegitimate child) ruin this love? Aye. Still, Mary ends up living with an elderly, scholarly hermit, looking to a new future atop some quite impressive scenery. (And Meg, you can bet your sporran, will commit suicide.) In spite of dire happenings, it's braw country and as clean as a pre-industrial mountain loch--all in all, a comfy period tale.