Ruth has returned to Edinburgh after many years of exile, left rootless by the end of her marriage, career and now the death of her father, from whom she had long been estranged. She is faced with the daunting task of clearing his house, believing he had removed all traces of her mother. Yet hidden away in a barely used top-floor room, she finds he had secretly kept a cupboard full of her possessions. Sifting through the ancient papers, Ruth discovers the diary and letters written by her ancestor from the 18th century, Thomas Erskine. As the youngest son of a noble family now living in genteel poverty, Thomas always knew he would have to make his own way in the world. Unable to follow his brothers to university, instead he joins first the navy and then the army, rising through the ranks, travelling the world
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