Cassiday Curran's wagon has just been hijacked by three bedraggled strangers on their way to Dodge City. On the run from an abusive husband, Cassiday agrees to share her wagon with the thieves as they search for their uncle.
A hard, high plains life has turned refined southern lady Aurelia Symington into a work-toughened, capable woman determined to give her best to those she loves. Aurelia is chosen president of the town company when the residents decide they must make the community of Paragon Springs into a real town or move elsewhere.
Meg Brennon knows that her new life at her road ranch in Paragon Springs, Kansas, can't truly begin until she severs all ties with the abusive husband she'd fled years before. Although fearful, she returns to St. Louis determined to find him and obtain a divorce. But Ted Malloy refuses, hoping that Meg's return will win him his dying father's favor, and fortune.
Lucy Walsh's heart remains with the struggling town of Paragon Springs, but she feels beholden to her husband, Admire, to make the Run to the Cherokee Strip for new land. Admire married her when few men would have, and raised her half-Sioux daughter, Rachel, as his own.
Thirteen-year-old Cotton becomes responsible for seeing his family safely across country to Oregon where they will join his father. In 1924, a 17-year-old girl tries to rebuild her life after a personal tragedy by taking a job as switchboard operator in a small town far from home. Instead of a haven, however, she finds her new community in the grip of fanatic prejudices that force her to take a stand for what she knows is right.
Laila Mitchell sets out for Oregon with little money, her medical knowledge, a medicine kit, and not much more than the clothes on her back, in the hopes of finding her last living relatives and a new life. But her plans are waylaid when she rescues and ends up treating Kate Boston, an older woman on her way to serve as a housekeeper at Ruby Gold, a peach ranch, in the Snake River Canyon.
Hillary Germaine had plans for her 17th summer. She was going to find a “total” guy and have a magical romance. To her horror, on her 17th birthday, just before the summer began, her parents gave her a plane ticket to Oregon. She left her plush existence in Iowa to help Aunt Fay, owner of the Rainsong Inn. She protested, but then decided to go when her adoptive parents wanted to get rid of her. The summer, it seemed, was a test to discover how well she could make it on her own.
Eighteen-year-old Bryn Kinney knows nothing about her family. She doesn't even know for sure that the woman who raised her-the woman she called Gram-was really her grandmother. When Gram dies, Bryn learns some startling news: someone has been sending her money since she was a baby. It was money Gram and she really could have used, but Gram just put it away. Now it is Bryn's to use to trace her past.
Could the Faber family really own a farm? Could they make enough money to buy one? Her father had almost given up hope, but for Willow it was the only dream worth having. Tenant farmers, the Fabers moved almost every year. To stay put in a good place, Willow would plan, work, save, and sacrifice everything.
The Morans had to have that cow, for Larnie's sickly mother was about to have a child, and the infant would need milk. Out here in the empty prairie of 1875, only a cow could save its life. But Larnie could not-would not-ask her Papa to get Bessie back for her. She bridled the family's old white mule and rode off bareback after the cow. She was just in time to see the animal join a passing trail herd and lose itself among the thousands of steers.
In the 1800s, young Hank's dream of moving west and becoming a cowboy is hindered by his responsibilities to his family. But he makes friends with a mute boy who has a secret. And helps protect him from the scarecrow man that tracks them both down. Finally, with the scarecrow gone, Hank's friend surprises everyone by speaking - after years of silence - and then revealing his family secrets.
Clare Hobb is weary of the strict boundaries her uncles impose at the family conclave, Hobb's Mills. She's in love with Larkin Wade, a handsome farmer her uncles disdain. During one of many trysts between Clare and Larkin, they find her beloved, brain-damaged father, Frank, vainly attempting to aid his brother, Samuel, who has been fatally injured in a wagon runaway accident.
When Logan McGee gives Calla Lea Stafford a note saying that he doesn't think they should go steady anymore, Calla can't believe it-especially when the note is slipped inside a valentine card. Just six weeks earlier, over Christmas break, Logan had moved with his mother from Texas to Treebrook, Oregon. Calla had offered to show him around the school and introduce him to other kids. And school had not even started again before Calla was certain that she and Logan were much more than just friends.
Amity Whitford dared to stake her own claim on the endless plains of Western Kansas. She built her homestead, Dove's Nest, with her bare hands. But the ravages of the sun and drying winds took their toll.
"The Plainswoman (Unabridged)"
Though 12-year-old Jocey Royal no longer goes to school, she reads. And out of her books comes dreams. Her dreams are her life, because she has a harelip and is convinced that no one will ever be her friend, that everyone will always chase her and make fun of her, as the children at school did before she quit. She wishes she never had to see another person. Jocey lives with her grandmother, a washerwoman, in Kansas City, Missouri.