In April, when blackthorn blossom clothes the hedgerows like a wedding veil, there sometimes comes a spell of frost or snow so severe that it seems as if spring and summer will never return. This is what country people call a blackthorn winter.
For Claudia Barron, the blackthorn winter of that particular April is like a metaphor for her whole life: for the end of glamour, financial security and marriage. Her rich and powerful husband has been sent to prison, leaving her homeless and virtually penniless. Hopeless to cling to the remnants of her old life, pointless to stand by a man who has betrayed her in almost every way a man can betray a woman.
Instead she goes into hiding, buys the only house she can afford in the Dorset village of Court Barton - a hideous bungalow built in an old kitchen garden - and changes her name. Under a cloak of anonymity she sets out to get herself a job in the local school. But villages don't much like anonymity and before very long Claudia finds herself drawn into the gossip and the grumbling, the lives and loves and quarrels of Court Barton in a way that she had never expected. Blackthorn winters do always give way to spring in the end.