Lamorna Cove, in Cornwall's far west, is a tiny bay set at the mouth of a secluded wooded valley of wild beauty, the haunt, a hundred years ago, of a close-knit colony of artists. Here, to a rented cottage in the overgrown gardens of Merryn Hall, Melanie Pentreath retreats from her busy London life as a lecturer in art history to research a book about the painters, and to seek solace following the death of her mother and a broken love affair. In this magical place, full of echoes of the past, Mel helps her landlord, Patrick Winterton, restore the garden and starts to pull together the shreds of her life. Patrick finds some old paintings in a glory hole in one of the attics, and as they uncover the identity of the artist they are drawn into an extraordinary story of illicit passion and thwarted ambition from the Edwardian past which proves resonant in Mel's own life. Merryn is an idyll, and Mel and Patrick, himself here to escape a romantic disappointment, find themselves drawing closer to one another - until the reality of the outside world once more intervenes and everything is threatened.