1603. London has mourned the death of Queen Elizabeth and Bubonic plague ravages the capital. But in the semi-isolated village of Hope Ghyll in Cumbria the locals are oblivious, and affectionate thirteen-year-old Susanna Assheby lives a simple, idyllic life with her mother, father, and younger sister.
Susanna has been longing for the day James Joseph returns to the village from where he has been away working; May Day will soon be upon them and she desires to be the May Queen with Master James as her King.
However, James does not return alone to Hope Ghyll. He is accompanied by the new Minister; Creedance Halley, who brings news of the Queen’s death and enforces days of prayer in her honour. But Susanna does her own praying to Oak Tree Jesus, a tiny wooden effigy she keeps secret in the local woods.
And when the rains come, the people are forced to shelter in the church, secrets are revealed, hearts broken and death arrives at Hope Ghyll. The villagers have to face up to loss and their involvement in less than Christian actions.