Bill Gallagher has written a Victorian period drama (1865),that is basically entertaining escapism. Country girl Denise (Joanna Vanderham) arrives at her uncle's drapery shop who promised her years ago that the shop would be hers, one day, and a job always awaiting. Little did Denise know her uncle had fallen on hard times due to the opening of a department store ('The Paradise') opposite his and other shop-owners, founded by the ambitious and seemingly ruthless John Moray (Emun Elliott). Denise gains employment there only to be put in her place by ladieswear supervisor, Miss Audrey,splendidly played by Sarah Lancashire.
Denise is bright, attractive and is quick to spot a sales opportunity, not always to her colleagues' approval but attracts Moray's attention to her potential and looks. He is ambitious and is being strangled by the attentions of the spoilt little rich girl Katherine Glandenning superbly played by Elaine Cassidy whose stoical father is a wealthy banker (Patrick Malahide). The cunning and dislikeable Katherine uses her father's financial position to push the handsome Moray into a promised marriage. Moray has secrets. He is kept on his feet by his best friend and confidante. The sinister Jonus (David Hayman) lurks menacingly in the background.
Characters Arthur and Sam add to life and humour in the department store with their own personal problems and loyalties along with other staff members. Despite Denise's attempts to help her uncle and his fellow independents, the stranglehold of the haberdashery ('The Paradise') is seemingly unbeatable. The horrid, deluded Katherine (wicked witch of the North) is not to be thwarted with her marriage ambition despite Denise's presence. There are interesting revelations concerning the characters' pasts. The intrigue sets in and the 'what happens next' factor kicks in fairly early in the eight episode series. The end is a cliff-hanger. A second series has been commissioned when I am sure more will be revealed of the main characters. Easy going, relaxing and enjoyable. Different from recent period costume dramas. More Sunday night than Tuesday, but watch this space. Viewing figures excellent.