After the death of her father in 1885, twenty-two-year-old Kate Bradford finds herself alone and lonely in Charleston, South Carolina. She's had some success teaching piano to make ends meet. Even so, life is a struggle. It grows worse when her repugnant landlord, Homer Barnes, makes unwelcome advances toward her.
Kate is desperate for change. She answers an intriguing advertisement, which launches her on a journey of a lifetime aboard the transcontinental railroad. The great Iron Horse carries her across the country to a whole new world, to a shining city on a hill, a city far away from Homer Barnes: San Francisco.
Jonathan Kelly has become bitter and aloof. The recent and senseless death of his young wife, Sarah, haunts him. He lives with his family at Silverado, a ranch and winery in Napa Valley, California, where he focuses on hard work and the raising of his son, Christian. The ranch is his respite—his lifeline—and he treasures it.
Jonathan is introduced to Kate in San Francisco and is taken by her stunning beauty and infectious Southern charm. Beguiled, he resents her involvement with his good friend and partner, Franklin Jones, a much older and very wealthy businessman.
When unforeseen circumstances propel Kate to Napa Valley, Jonathan is baffled. How could his family members be so accepting of her? Couldn't they see her for what she was? Mysterious events soon place her in danger, and Jonathan's routine is thrown into turmoil, threatening the tranquility of his beloved home, Silverado.