Markham Thorpe : When Ellen Braithwaite, a young housemaid, enters service at the declining Markham Thorpe, she soon realizes that the relationship between masters and servants is not quite as it should be - and that it is her cousin, the housekeeper Mrs. Rundell, who is responsible. A formidable woman with grand designs, Mrs. Rundell is taking control of far more than just the running of the house. Her masters appear powerless to stop her, her enemies are increasing and, most confusingly, she has plans for her young cousin too. But can there really be any harm in trying to beat the disadvantages of birth and better yourself? As Ellen and the inhabitants of Markham Thorpe will discover, that all depends on just how far you are willing to go.