In 1875, the eager country girl, Denise, leaves the small town of Peebles, Scotland, to work in her uncle's drapers' store in northern England. However, her uncle Edmund has fallen on hard times and his shop cannot support the both of them, so Denise is forced to seek work at the department store opposite, The Paradise. There she lands a job in Ladies' Wear and meets, and falls for, the store's charismatic owner, the widower John Moray. Moray is expected to marry the heiress, Katherine Glendenning, whose father is financing the expansion of the store. However, Moray is still too mch in love with his late wife to pay attention to any of the women who desire him.
The Paradise is a sumptuous costume drama loosely based on the novel Au Bonheur des Dames by Emile Zola. Like all BBC costume dramas it is beautiful to look at, with a minute attention to detail in the costumes and sets. It made me desperately want all the wonderful Edwardian frocks. Denise's blue turquoise silk number from episode seven is particularly special.
Emun Elliott (as Moray) is a ridiculously handsome man, and certain scenes, such as his dinner with Katherine (Elaine Cassidy) in the first episode possitively sizzle with sexual tension. There is also a rather sweet love story concerning Edmund Lovett (Peter Wright) and Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire), the prim and proper head of Ladies' Wear who forsook marriage for her career.
The Paradise isn't all about romance. There is plenty of intrigue as well, with the ongoing battle between The Paradise and the smaller retailers in the street, rivalries between the shop girls and an ongoing mystery about whether Moray's wife's death was really an accident.
Denise (Joanna Vanderham) comes to rival Katherine for Moray's affections. She is an admirable heroine, whose creativity and persuasiveness make her a brilliant saleswoman and able to talk her way into, and out of, almost any situation. Her adventures continue in Season 2.
The Paradise would be worth watching just for the costumes, but provides much more in the form of an interesting storyline, great cast and a teasing, slow building romance.