In the tiny front parlour fourteen-year-old Laura Blake watches her beloved father die, but not before he tells her she will make something of her life. Yet her path to success proves to be a rocky one. Forced to trundle a cart around the back streets, selling other folk's cast-offs to support her family, Laura learns enough to start work in her uncle's furniture shop. But then fate deals another cruel blow when Laura is brutally raped. Bearing the child of her attacker in secret, she vows to make the world pay for its injustice towards her. As she grows older, her protective shell hardens even as her beauty blossoms, and her new toughness helps her forge a successful career. But it is in affairs of the heart that Laura stumbles, and before she can find fulfilment, she must learn to put her past behind her, and give as well as take.