The year is 1140 and England is torn by the strife of civil war. Oliver Pascal chances upon a village raided by mercenaries and rescues the survivors: an orphaned boy, who is the illegitimate son of the old king, and his mother's maid, a young widow named Catrin. After escorting them to Bristol Castle, they are accepted into the household of Robert of Gloucester and while Catrin finds herself falling in love with Oliver she suffers a deep boredom at the frivolity of court life.
Thus when the old midwife Etheldreda offers to teach her the secrets of her ancient art, Catrin agrees.
But the midwife's life is fraught with dangers, not least Oliver's own personal fears which threaten their relationship, but also in the shape of two men, both killers and both of whom threaten the couple's lives. However, Catrin is determined to pursue her career and keep Oliver and while England fights a civil war, she battles for her love and for her vocation.