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Nancy Maquire, a blue blood from Boston, wants to find her place within the burgeoning society of the mid-nineteenth century. Her parents want her to marry and start a family in the East, but Nancy envisions a freer life in California, where her dream of owning a horse ranch can come true. Following her heart, she locates a group traveling west and quickly learns that even on the frontier women do not have the rights or equalities of men. And even more shocking to her is that the women of the group don't trust her independence, and the men are threatened by it. With insurmountable integrity, stamina, and willfulness, Nancy travels across the wild frontier on her feisty mare and with a wagonful of goods. She is accompanied by Hart, a love she never expected to find, and Lottie, an irreplaceable friend. On the way she faces starvation, Indian warfare, and thieves, but slowly discovers the true meaning of independence.