When twelve-year-old Charity Bullock’s parents die in Galveston’s yellow fever epidemic in 1853, she and her fifteen year-old sister, Hope, must travel across the Texas frontier by ox wagon to live with their great-uncle, Richard Bullock, whom they have never met. Their only living relative, Great-Uncle Bullock owns a large inn located in Austin, the new capitol of the Republic of Texas. Charity’s two little brothers must stay behind with a neighbor, but her promise to keep the family together haunts her as she travels across Texas.
The only hotel in Austin, Bullock’s Inn often hosts officials of the new republic’s government, and Charity and her sister struggle to make a place for themselves in unfamiliar surroundings with the unwavering support of Minnie, Great-Uncle Bullock’s black indentured servant. Their great-uncle’s penchant for swigging corn liquor from a jug complicates relationships with travelers and Austin residents alike, while Charity and Hope take on more responsibility for keeping the business running smoothly.
A violent confrontation between Great-Uncle Bullock, General Sam Houston and the French ambassador to Texas, known as the Pig War, threatens Charity’s newfound security just as she and Hope are beginning to feel at home.