In 1832, the landowner and industrialist Anne Lister returns to her ancestral home, Shibden Hall, in Halifax, West Yorkshire, after an extended period of travel, study and social climbing. To transform the fate of her faded ancestral home and restore Shibden Hall to its former glory, Anne must re-open her coal mines and marry well. But Lister has no intention of marrying a man. True to her own nature, she plans to marry a woman. The story examines Anne’s relationships at home with her family, her servants, her tenants and her industrial rivals; and most importantly, with her would-be-wife, the wealthy heiress Ann Walker.
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