Junchow, China, 1928. Lydia Ivanova has a fierce spirit. Nothing can dim it, not even the foul waters of the Peiho River.
Into the river's grime bodies are tossed - those of thieves and Communists alike. So every time Lydia steals from someone to feed herself and her mother, she takes her life into her own hands. Lydia's mother, Valentina, numbered among the Russian elite until the Bolsheviks rounded them up.
They took her husband but she managed to buy back her child and bring her to China. But survival is hard. Even though mother and daughter live in the Whites-only settlement, no walls can keep Lydia in.
She escapes to meet Chang An Lo, who saves her life once and is bound to her for ever . But Chang has enemies who are hunting him down - Chiang Kai Shek's troops are headed towards Junchow to kill Reds like him. Their all-consuming love can only mean danger for them both, but they are powerless to end it ...