Ellen Butterworth's sweetheart is demobbed from the Royal Navy and comes ashore in Liverpool, so they can begin making a future together. Brian is restless and ambitious, however, finding it difficult to hold down a steady job and adjust to civilian life. An urgent telegram from Ellen's younger sister, Jeanette, interrupts their wedding plans and sees Ellen travelling through the night across country and over the Dow Hills to Whinforth, the prosperous Yorkshire wool town where she grew up.
Dorothy Butterworth has been taken gravely ill. While her mother's life hangs in the balance at Whinforth Infirmary, Ellen abandons all notions of returning to Brian in Liverpool and moves back into the family home, helping Jeanette run the busy corner newsagent's shop which is the Butterworths' livelihood.
As Dorothy slowly gains strength and begins a lengthy road to recovery, Ellen gradually settles into life in her old home town. She joins Jeanette, an accomplished singer and lively member of the local amateur dramatic society, at rehearsals of the Whinforth Players, begins getting to know the shop's regular customers, including widower Alec Munro and his young children, Peggy and Robbie. Her old roommate from Liverpool, Hilary Armitage, comes over to Yorkshire and visits the Butterworths whenever she can. Hilary's husband was lost during the War, and more than once Ellen has tried a little matchmaking in the hope her friend will once again find happiness and the chance of having the family she longs for.
Brian has set his sights on starting up his own business. He arrives unannounced in Whinforth and much to Ellen's surprise and delight, declares he's there to stay. He intends putting down roots once and for all and marrying her as soon as it can be arranged! Overjoyed, Ellen takes him to meet her mother and sister -- but her heart sinks.
From the moment Ellen's vivacious younger sister appears in the room, Brian is unable to take his eyes from Jeanette . . .