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When Matilda's father retires through ill health, the family's new life in Much Winterlow is forced into reduced circumstances.
To make ends meet, Matilda applies to be Dr. Henry Lovell's receptionist. She does her best to ignore the strong attraction she feels for him - dreaming of white weddings and a happy marriage is not for her, and, after all, Henry is engaged to Lucilla. But Henry won't leave the village despite Lucilla's wish to live in London, and as he gets to know Matilda he becomes more intrigued by her.