On a midsummers eve, Alinor waits in the church graveyard, hoping to encounter the ghost of her missing husband and thus confirm his death. Until she can, she is neither maiden nor wife nor widow, living in a perilous limbo. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run. She shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marshy landscape of the tidelands, not knowing she is leading a spy and an enemy into her life.
England is in the grip of a bloody civil war that reaches into the most remote parts of the kingdom. Alinor's suspicious neighbors are watching each other for any sign that someone might be disloyal to the new parliment, and Alinor's ambition and determination mark her as a women who doesn't follow the rules. They have always whipsered about the sinister power of her beauty, but the secrets they don't know about her and James are far more damning.