Grace Agbrigg has ambitions beyond merely ornamenting the home of a rich husband. But high Victorian England is still almost wholly a man's world in which women - rich or poor - must do the bidding of father, husband or employer.
Attracted against her will to the ambitious and ruthless Gideon Chard, Grace instead makes the marriage that is expected of her. But eventually she breaks free of a relationship that is a sham to become the only divorcee in Cullingford - and a social outcast.
Set against a background of change and unrest, of dazzling wealth cheek by jowl with bitter poverty, The Sleeping Sword, which concludes the magnificent Barforth saga, is an unforgettable portrait of an age as well as a compelling story of love between two strong and determined people.