It is 1916. Lottie Prideaux rides the winding lanes of her childhood on her motorcycle, defying the expectations of her class and sex as she trains to be a vet. Meanwhile young Leo Sercombe finds himself a long way from home, hauling coal aboard the HMS Queen Mary in the middle of the ocean. Here life is raw, bloody and vivid, with death never more than a heartbeat away. As Leo and Lottie wander in this strange and brave new world, and as war, loss, violence and betrayal conspire to tear asunder the ties that bind the past, present and future together, can even the most fated of returns - and redemptions - hope to come to pass.
1911. In a forgotten valley on the Devon-Somerset border, the seasons unfold, marked only by the rituals of the farming calendar. Twelve-year-old Leopold Sercombe skips school to help his father, a carter. Skinny and pale, Leo dreams of a job on the estate's stud farm. He is breaking a colt for his father when a boy dressed in a Homburg, breeches and riding boots appears. Peering under the stranger's hat, he discovers Miss Charlotte, the Master's daughter. And so begins a friendship between the children, bound by a deep love of horses, but divided by rigid social boundaries - boundaries that become increasingly difficult to navigate as they approach adolescence.
Lonely and grieving for her exiled best friend, thirteen-year-old Lottie feels a prisoner. Her only solace is her study of the natural world around her father's estate: the strange profusion of its plants, the beauty and brutality of its predators, its mysterious dances of life, death and survival. Grazing on berries and sleeping in copses, Leo travels alone through the wild, strange tapestry of the West Country towards Penzance. But a wanderer is never alone for long - and when the gypsy waggons rattle into view, Leo is drawn into a colourful and dangerous world far beyond his imagination.