Madeleine Hazell and William de Bulmer have been married a year. She is a healer, a wise woman, practical, intelligent and blunt. He is not only an ex-monk, but an ex-abbot, accustomed to authority, administration, and figures - but less capable in such matters as shutting up chickens for the night., They are deeply, irrevocably in love. And every conversation may become a battlefield that leaves both wounded and resentful. Meanwhile at nearby St Alcuin's Abbey, the aged monk who served as cellarer has died, and Abbot John finds himself critically short-handed., Who will handle the rents? The provisions? With a sense of rising panic Abbot John turns to his friend William, the man who renounced his vows for love - only to find that John's own pastoral skills may be required in matters matrimonial. But what does a monk know of matrimony? Except that everyone is only human, and kindness is the oil of grace for both the cloister and the hearth.