In 1720 England, a remote village is beset by floods and disease after a secret fertility ritual is exposed. Blame falls on tapestry weaver Clarinda Asher, who performed the sacred marriage with Benjamin Keane. Outcast to a hilltop cottage, Clarinda weaves in solitude until the day Benjamin returns from his self-imposed banishment. Old wounds reopen as the two attempt a tortured reunion. When Clarinda defies her 12-year exile to attend the midsummer bonfires, she sets in motion events and revelations that test even Benjamin’s faith in her, and it is this last blow that Clarinda may not withstand.
The ritual vanishes from memory until, 300 years later, an American tapestry weaver, Jessamine Barlow, arrives in Maidenvale. She falls for Owen Calder, the “king” of the village’s May Day festival, a diluted version of the long-ago celebrations. A different form of imprisonment confines Owen: a soured marriage. When he oversteps his own boundaries to rediscover—and ultimately re-enact—the ancient rite with Jess, his life is ripped apart. Still, he chooses to stay in his “tower,” and Jess is left stunned and adrift. But the ritual’s potency has been revived, and events take an unexpected turn.