Gloria Winter (nee Green) lives in the Yorkshire village of Malbry. Once married to a friend of her father's who ran a fish and chip shop, Gloria meets Peter Winter at a Christmas party. He's the local car dealer with a BMW and a bit of flash and he becomes her second husband until the car dealership goes and Peter goes with it. To care for her three sons, Nigel, Brendan and Ben Gloria takes in mending and ironing and becomes a cleaner.
Black, Brown and Blue are the names of her children because of the colours in which Gloria dresses them. Black for Nigel, the eldest, 'moody and aggressive'. Nigel is killed in a car crash. Brown, for Brendan, 'timid and dull' and Blue for the youngest, most doted on son Ben. Ben is a murderer.