Irene, beautiful and headstrong, is born in Lambeth, daughter of a river policeman who served a full career in the army and had boxed professionally. Her mother spent her working life in domestic service. Despite being raised in a stable and loving family, Irene always feels she has been born into the wrong level of society. When she marries the eldest son of the local vicar, it gives her the position she has always sought. They appear to be very happy, but when the war intervenes, with the inevitable long separations, affections on both sides stray.
Separation, tempestuous relationships and further marriages to unsuitable men steadily erode Irene’s status as the ‘Colonel’s Lady’, furthering her anger and unhappiness at how her life has devolved. Always in debt and estranged from her closest family, the base side of her nature comes to the fore as she struggles to create a successful business and to regain the admiration and respect in which she was once held.
A novel of ambition and selfish desires, this modern story has at its centre a beautiful, amoral anti-heroine who readers cannot help but root for even as they marvel at the rise and decline of Irene.