Jess Delaney has always longed for independence. But when the Blitz reaches Manchester, she is locked in the cellar by her feckless mother, Lizzie. As bombs rain down from a sky turned blood red with flame, Jess waits for Lizzie to return.
But fortunes are fickle, and soon Jess finds herself packed off to live with her tyrant Uncle Bernie, a bullying black marketeer. Though he treats her like a servant, she seeks refuge in the Sally Army and her natural musical talent offers both an escape route and the chance for love.
But Uncle Bernie never forgives his niece for refusing to join his illegal schemes and threatens to deprive Jess of her hard-won freedom once and for all.