Miss Pauline Marchrose arrives at the Commercial and Technical College of South-West England as the new Lady Superintendent. But Lady Edna Rossiter, the wife of the college director, Sir Julian, recognises her name as the woman who broke off an engagement with her cousin. She starts a whispering campaign against Miss Marchrose that casts doubt on her character and undermines her position at the college, which is further fuelled by Miss Marchrose’s growing attachment to Sir Julian’s agent, Mark Easter, who is married. Tension examines reputation and the persistence of gossip in relation to a woman’s choice of work and domestic arrangements with a light touch of humour. The two main female characters represent the different roles of women in public life. Lady Rossiter uses her social position to influence college matters, while Miss Marchrose is a professional woman who brings qualifications and experience to her role.