It is the mid-1960s and 17-year-old Sally is living in leafy suburbia with her bourgeois mother, indulgent father and infuriating sister. Mrs Phillips, a strict Roman Catholic, worries constantly about what the neighbours think behind their twitching lace curtains and about Sally’s tomboyish ways. Having finished her convent education, Sally is shy and naïve, and totally unconscious of her budding beauty. Her only sex education has been an excruciating lesson on the procreation of rabbits from the nuns, and her mother’s oblique warnings that ‘men only want one thing’. Quick to blush and innocent of the world, she is nonetheless intelligent and shows no interest in callow youths eager to date her, despite the encouragement of her best friend Caroline.
Then she meets Doug MacDonald and the urges that have lain dormant, anaesthetised by ignorance and Catholic angst, overpower her shyness and reserve. Almost overnight Sally blossoms, her inhibitions caressed away by the experienced hands of an accomplished lover. She falls deeply in love and, for the first time in his life it seems, so too does Doug. A trip to his Scottish home and a proposal of marriage form part of the whirlwind romance.
But waiting in the wings to claim what she believes is hers is Moira, one of Doug’s many ex-girlfriends. A web of deceit woven by Moira sends Sally fleeing the heartache to visit her friend Caroline, who has married a diplomat and is now living in the Middle East. Sally learns to love the desert kingdom and its people – and one person in particular – as she finds independence and a renewed self-confidence.