Will Oakley, landlord of The Fleece, had two daughters, as different in character as they were in appearance. Myrtle was vivid, bright and lovely, a dreamer with a generous spirit and a zest for life. Harriet was ugly —not in form or figure but when she turned round and men saw her pockmarked face they shuddered. And their revulsion had slowly corroded her soul, destroyed compassion and the ability to show affection. But one thing Harriet did not lack was courage.
She was to need every ounce of it at the autumnal feast of Michael and All Angels in 1817 when the Ipswich coach arrived carrying a strange, ill-assorted company destined to change forever the lives of those who lived at The Fleece.
That night the Inn played host to a philanderer, a suicidal woman, a desperate maid-of-all-work, a highwayman, a handsome foreigner with a scarred face—and the fat man who appeared to be gloating over some malicious secret of his own and who carried the power to destroy Will Oakley and his family forever.