Eve longs to escape from her rigidly disciplinarian father, and experience life away from her small Herefordshire village. Her brother James longs to join the army fighting Napoleon in the peninsula.
Eve is fascinated by cider-making, and despite her father's disapproval, makes it with the help of a local farmer. When Justin, the Earl of Newark, discovers her in boys' clothes high up an apple tree picking her apples, he is intrigued. He has come to visit his young brother who is being coached for Oxford by the Rector, along with his own son James. Eve is delighted when her friend Amelia's sister invites her to accompany them to London for the Little Season. They are, however, forced to remain there longer when Sir Bernard suffers more of the seizures that are keeping him from the army. They endure heavy fogs and a very cold winter that sees the Thames frozen, and a Frost Fair.
Meanwhile James, desperate to join the army, runs away from home. Attacked, robbed and injured, he finds his way to London. The Rector, furious at being disobeyed, sets off to search for him.