It wasn’t Maggie Boon’s idea to come to the barn-raising, dressed in her ma’s faded calico with a bulging bosom made of rags. But her pa is determined to find her a husband, tonight, and he doesn’t care who, so long as the man has something to give in return. If Maggie doesn’t act quickly, she’ll be stuck for life with a two-time widower with a passel of kids. When John David McKellar, the young, handsome—and slightly drunk—son of a rich farmer in the valley, offers to marry her instead, she takes the gamble to escape Pine Mountain for what has to be a better life.
Back to his senses the next morning, John David hatches a plan to end the hasty marriage and still give Maggie her escape—they’ll get an annulment, and he’ll help her find work in town, far from the mountain. But nothing goes as planned, especially once they begin to fancy each other. When John David proposes they should stay married, Maggie happily agrees. He promises they’ll leave Tennessee to start a new life together on a grant of the free land the Mexicans are giving out in Texas. And he promises if ever Maggie is miserable with him, he’ll still give her that annulment.
Promises made in a cozy loft prove hard to keep on the rough frontier trail. Bad luck and bad choices beset them, both on the trail and in love. They end up broke and stranded in desolate Arkansas Territory, where Maggie takes another gamble that will either give them one last good chance to get to Texas or cost them the only thing they have left—each other.