It is summer 1880, and Inez Stannert, one of the partners in the Silver Queen Saloon in Leadville, Colorado, travels with her photographer friend Susan to the fashionable summer retreat of Manitou for a reunion with her son, now a toddler in the care of her sister. On the way, fellow stagecoach passenger Edward Pace suddenly grows faint, swigs some medicine, and dies under their horrified gaze. Pace's widow rejects a weak heart theory and begs Inez to investigate. As Inez digs deeper, she uncovers the shady side of spa tourism including spurious claims, profiteering from the coming bonanza in medicinal waters and miracle cures, and medical practitioners who kindle false hopes in the desperate and the dying. Then Inez's husband Mark reappears after a year and a half's unexplained absence. Now she must fight to hold on to her child and the life she has built for herself in an era where "independent woman" is an oxymoron.