When spunky Swedish spinster Lili Tornquist, age 29, learns that her widowed father will soon remarry a woman she detests, she leaves her Minnesota home to become the mail-order bride of a distant cousin, Gunnar Jorgeson, a Montana sheep rancher. But her new husband falls far short of his promise, and putting aside all she has previously believed about steadfastness and endurance, Lili abandons her marriage to make her own way in the notorious wide-open mining town of Butte. In desperation, unable to find more suitable work, she revives a long-dormant talent and takes a job singing in a hurdy-gurdy house, much to the consternation of two men who love her—mine lawyer Charles Weatherby and union organizer Tom Hawes. Lili feels loyalty to each of them and her integrity is severely tested. After suffering near disgrace, a mine disaster, and a crisis in the integrity of her chosen career, Lili comes to terms with her fear of another disastrous commitment and her desire to belong somewhere—to someone.