First published in London in 1921, though completed in 1916, Women in Love continues the story of two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen who
had first appeared in Lawrence's earlier novel
The Rainbow (1915).
The sisters are occupants of the coal-mining town of Beldover, and their relationships dominate the novel.
Ursula, a teacher herself, is in love with the school inspector Rupert Birkin who is initially involved with Hermione Roddice (a dominating lady with whom he is not happy).
Gerard Crich, a friend of Birkin, is the other main character. He is weighted down by the deaths that have occurred in his family (he accidentally caused his brother's death at an early age and feels guilty when his sister too dies, by drowning).
Gerard takes over the running of the mine from his father but his initially strong position is weakened by his relationship with Gudrun that in time is made difficult by an emptiness in Gerard. Ursula and Rupert, meanwhile,
are married, and the novel continues to explore their happier relationship. Gerard and Gudrun are torn apart by sorrow and the latter's flirting with the sculptor Loerke in the Alps while the four central characters holiday together. Some saw the novel as filled with depravity and vice, but Lawrence maintained that it was his finest work. The author himself is present in the novel as the character Rupert.