Nancy Maguire, a blue blood from Boston, wants to find her place within the burgeoning society of the mid-nineteenth century. But her parents want her to marry. She envisions her life in California -- a land in the midst of warring factions -- where her dreams of owning a horse ranch will come true.
In Independence Missouri, Nancy joins a group travelling west, the Colonel J.B. Chiles Company, and she quickly learns that women in her society do not have the same rights or equalities of men; the women of the group don't trust her independence and the men are threatened by it.
Accompanied by Hart Daniels, a love she never expected to find, and Lottie England, an irreplaceable friend, Nancy faces starvation, Indian warfare, thieves, and war.
Travelling across the wild frontier on her feisty mare with a wagon full of goods, she slowly discovers the true meaning of independence.