On the eve of her ordination as rector of a small country parish in the Durham dales, Reverend Rosalind Maclaren - introduced to readers in First Parish - is looking forward to her new role, very different from that of a minister in a deprived urban area. With the support of her husband Alistair, a musician who hopes to revive the village choir, and of her father - himself a retired vicar - Rosie hopes that she will soon be accepted by her flock.
Within a few weeks of her arrival, Foot and Mouth Disease is spreading across the country, and has reached the farms of Meadhope. At Middle Byers, the Emersons, who have farmed for generations, witness the wholesale slaughter of their livestock, and its tragic impact on their family. As rector, Rosie finds herself caught up in a desperate situation for which she is quite unprepared, and one which sweeps aside all her preconceptions about her job