Seventeen-year-old Liza is happy working as a lady’s maid – until her employers decide to emigrate and her father makes up his mind that she is to wed an older widower whom she detests. Determined to avoid a loveless marriage, Liza plans to run away. But when the widower rapes her to force her to marry him, she flees back to the family for whom she worked. She feels she has no choice but to go with them to Australia, and they all set out on the long voyage.
On board ship, Liza discovers to her horror that she has fallen pregnant. Even if she can survive the journey, the demanding life of a settler in 1850s Western Australia will be made even harder by an illegitimate child.
But Liza is to find that in addition to deprivation of the worst sort, Australia will offer her opportunities she could never have dreamt of back home in Lancashire.